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Title: The Mystery Queen
Author: Fergus Hume
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0200721.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: October 2002
Date most recently updated: October 2002

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Title:      The Mystery Queen
Author:     Fergus Hume




Contents


Chapter I. A STRANGE VISITOR

Chapter II. A COMPLETE MYSTERY

Chapter III. DUTY BEFORE PLEASURE

Chapter IV. AN AMATEUR DETECTIVE

Chapter V. MUDDY WATER

Chapter VI. THE INVENTOR

Chapter VII. THE HERMIT LADIES

Chapter VIII. AVIATION

Chapter IX. MAHOMET'S COFFIN

Chapter X. ANOTHER MYSTERY

Chapter XI. ON THE TRAIL

Chapter XII. AN AMAZING ADVENTURE

Chapter XIII. A BOLD DETERMINATION

Chapter XIV. A BUSY AFTERNOON

Chapter XV. ABSOLUTE PROOF

Chapter XVI. DAN'S DIPLOMACY

Chapter XVII. AT BAY

Chapter XVIII. THE FLIGHT

Chapter XIX. TREACHERY

Chapter XX. QUEEN BEELZEBUB'S END

Chapter XXI. SUNSHINE




Chapter I. A STRANGE VISITOR

"A penny for your thoughts, Dad," cried Lillian, suppressing a school-girl
desire to throw one of the nuts on her plate at her father and rouse him
from his brown study.

Sir Charles Moon looked up with a start, and drew his bushy grey eye-brows
together. "Some people would give more than that to know them, my dear."

"What sort of people?" asked the young man who sat beside Lillian,
industriously cracking filberts for her consumption.

"Dangerous people," replied Sir Charles grimly, "very dangerous, Dan."

Mrs. Bolstreath, fat, fair, and fifty, Lillian's paid companion and
chaperon, leaned back complacently. She had enjoyed an excellent dinner:
she was beautifully dressed: and shortly she would witness the newest
musical comedy; three very good reasons for her amiable expression.
"All people are dangerous to millionaires," she remarked, pointing the
compliment at her employer, 'since all people enjoy life with wealth, and
wish to get the millionaire's money honestly or dishonestly."

"The people you mention have failed to get mine, Mrs. Bolstreath," was the
millionaire's dry response.

"Of course I speak generally and not of any particular person, Sir
Charles."

"I am aware of it," he answered, nodding; and showed a tendency to relapse
into his meditation, but that his daughter raised her price for confession.

"A sixpence for your thoughts, Dad, a shilling--ten shillings--then one
pound, you insatiable person."

"My kingdom for an explicit statement," murmured Dan, laying aside the
crackers. "Lillian, my child, you must not eat any more nuts, or you will
be having indigestion."

"I believe Dad has indigestion already."

"Some people will have it very badly before I am done with them," said Sir
Charles, not echoing his daughter's laughter: then, to prevent further
questions being asked, he addressed himself to the young man. "How are
things going with you, Halliday?"

When Sir Charles asked questions thus stiffly, Dan knew that he was not
too well pleased, and guessed the reason, which had to do with Lillian,
and with Lillian's friendly attitude to a swain not overburdened with
money--to wit, his very own self--who replied diplomatically. "Things are
going up with me, sir, if you mean aeroplanes."

"Frivolous! Frivolous!" muttered the big man seriously; "as a
well-educated young man who wants money, you should aim at higher things."

"He aims at the sun," said Lillian gaily, "how much higher do you expect
him to aim, Dad?"

"Aiming at the sun is he," said Moon heavily; "h'm! he'll be like that
classical chap, who flew too high and came smash."

"Do you mean Icarus or Phaeton, Sir Charles?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, who,
having been a governess, prided herself upon exceptional knowledge.

"I don't know which of the two; perhaps one, perhaps both. But he flew in
an aeroplane like Dan here, and came to grief."

"Oh!" Lillian turned distinctly pale. "I hope, Dan, you won't come to
grief."

Before the guest could reply, Sir Charles reassured his daughter. "Naught
was never in danger," he said, still grim and unsmiling, "don't trouble,
Lillian, my dear. Dan won't come to grief in that way, although he may in
another."

Lillian opened her blue eyes and stared while young Halliday grew crimson
and fiddled with the nutshells. "I don't know what you mean, Dad?" said
the girl after a puzzled pause.

"I think Dan does," rejoined her father, rising and pushing back his chair
slowly. He looked at his watch. "Seven-thirty; you have plenty of time to
see your play, which does not begin until nine," he added, walking towards
the door. "Mrs. Bolstreath, I should like to speak with you."

"But, Dad--"

"My dear Lillian, I have no time to wait. There is an important
appointment at nine o'clock here, and afterwards I must go to the House.
Go and enjoy yourself, but don't--" here his stern grey eyes rested on
Dan's bent head in a significant way--"don't be foolish. Mrs. Bolstreath,"
he beckoned, and left the room.

"Oh!" sighed the chaperon-governess-companion, for she was all three, a
kind of modern Cerberus, guarding the millionaire's child. "I thought it
would come to this!" and she also looked significantly at Halliday before
she vanished to join her employer.

Lillian stared at the closed door through which both her father and Mrs.
Bolstreath had passed, and then looked at Dan, sitting somewhat
disconsolately at the disordered dinner-table. She was a delicately pretty
girl of a fair fragile type, not yet twenty years of age, and resembled a
shepherdess of Dresden china in her dainty perfection. With her pale
golden hair, and rose-leaf complexion; arrayed in a simple white silk
frock with snowy pearls round her slender neck, she looked like a wreath
of faint mist. At least Dan fancifully thought so, as he stole a glance at
her frail beauty, or perhaps she was more like a silver-point drawing,
exquisitely fine. But whatever image love might find to express her
loveliness, Dan knew in his hot passion that she was the one girl in the
world for him. Lillian Halliday was a much better name for her than
Lillian Moon.

Dan himself was tall and slim, dark and virile, with a clear-cut,
clean-shaven face suggestive of strength and activity. His bronzed
complexion suggested an open-air life, while the eagle look in his dark
eyes was that new vast-distance expression rapidly being acquired by those
who devote themselves to aviation. No one could deny Dan's good looks or
clean life or daring nature, and he was all that a girl could desire in
the way of a fairy prince. But fathers do not approve of fairy princes
unless they come laden with jewels and gold. To bring such to Lillian was
rather like taking coals to Newcastle since her father was so wealthy; but
much desires more, and Sir Charles wanted a rich son-in-law. Dan could not
supply this particular adjective, and therefore--as he would have put it
in the newest slang of the newest profession--was out of the fly. Not that
he intended to be, in spite of Sir Charles, since love can laugh at stern
fathers as easily as at bolts and bars.

And all this time Lillian stared at the door, and then at Dan, and then at
her plate, putting two and two together. But in spite of her feminine
intuition, she could not make four, and turned to her lover--for that Dan
was, and a declared lover too--for an explanation. "What does Dad mean?"

Dan raised his handsome head and laughed as grimly as Sir Charles had done
earlier. "He means that I shan't be asked to dinner any more."

"Why? You have done nothing."

"No; but I intend to do something."

"What's that?"

Dan glanced at the closed door and seeing that there was no immediate
chance of butler or footmen entering took her in his arms. "Marry you," he
whispered between two kisses.

"There's no intention about that," pouted the girl; "we have settled that
ever so long ago."

"So your father suspects, and for that reason he is warning Mrs.
Bolstreath."

"Warning the dragon," said Miss Moon, who used the term quite in an
affectionate way, "why, the dragon is on our side."

"I dare say your father guesses as much. For that reason I'll stake my
life that he is telling her at this moment she must never let us be
together alone after this evening. After all, my dear, I don't see why you
should look at me in such a puzzled way. You know well enough that Sir
Charles wants you to marry Curberry."

"Marry Lord Curberry," cried Lillian, her pale skin colouring a deep rose
hue; "why I told Dad I wouldn't do that."

"Did you tell Dad that you loved me?"

"No. There's no need to," said the girl promptly.

Dan coughed drily. "I quite agree with you," he said rising, "there's no
need to, since every time I look at you, I give myself away. But you
surely understand, darling, that as I haven't a title and I haven't money
I can't have you. Hothouse grapes are for the rich and not for a poor
devil like me."

"You might find a prettier simile," laughed Lillian, not at all
discomposed, although she now thoroughly understood the meaning of her
father's abrupt departure with Mrs. Bolstreath. Then she rose and took Dan
by the lapels of his coat, upon which he promptly linked her to himself by
placing both arms round her waist. "Dearest," she said earnestly, "I shall
marry you and you only. We have been brought up more or less together, and
we have always loved one another. Dad was your guardian: you have five
hundred a year of your own, and if we marry Dad can give us plenty, and--"

"I know all that," interrupted Halliday, placing her arms round his neck,
"and it is just because Sir Charles knows also, that he will never consent
to our marriage. I guessed what was in the wind weeks ago, darling heart,
and every day I have been expecting what has occurred to-night. For that
reason, I have come here as often as possible and have arranged for you
and the dragon to go to the theatre to-night. But, believe me, Lillian, it
will be for the last time. To-morrow I shall receive a note saying that I
am to stay away from Lord Curberry's bride."

"I'm not his bride and I never shall be!" stamped Lillian, and the tears
came into her pretty eyes, whereupon Dan, as a loyal lover, wiped them
away with his pocket-handkerchief tenderly, "and--and--" she faltered.

"And--and--" he mocked, knowing her requirements, which led him to console
her with a long and lingering kiss. "Oh!" he sighed and Lillian, nestling
in his arms, echoed the sigh. The moment of perfect understanding and
perfect love held them until the sudden opening of the door placed Dan on
one side of the table and Lillian on the other.

"It won't do, my dears," said the new-comer, who was none other than Mrs.
Bolstreath, flaming with wrath, but not, as the lovers found later, at
them. "I know quite well that Dan hasn't wasted his time in this
league-divided wooing."

"We thought that one of the servants--" began the young man, when Mrs.
Bolstreath interrupted.

"Well, and am I not one of the servants? Sir Charles has reminded me of
the fact three times with information that I am not worth my salt, much
less the good table he keeps."

"Oh! Bolly dear," and Lillian ran to the stout chaperon to embrace her
with many kisses, "was Dad nasty?"

"He wasn't agreeable," assented Mrs. Bolstreath, fanning herself with her
handkerchief, for the interview had heated her. "You can't expect him to
be, my sweet, when his daughter loves a pauper."

"Thank you," murmured Dan bowing, "but don't you think it is time we went
to the theatre, Bolly dear."

"You must not be so familiar, young man," said the chaperon, broadly
smiling at the dark handsome face. "Sir Charles wants Lillian to marry--"

"Then I shan't!" Lillian stamped again. "I hate Lord Curberry."

"And you love Dan!"

"Don't be so familiar, young woman," said Halliday, in a joking way,
"unless you are on our side, that is."

"If I were not on your side," rejoined Mrs. Bolstreath, majestically, "I
should be the very dragon Lillian calls me. After all, Dan, you are poor."

"Poor, but honest."

"Worse and worse. Honest people never grow rich. And then you have such a
dangerous profession; taking people flying trips in those aeroplanes. One
never can be sure if you will be home to supper. I'm sure Lillian would
not care to marry a husband who was uncertain about being home for supper."

"I'll marry Dan," said Lillian, and embraced Dan, who returned the embrace.

"Children! Children!" Mrs. Bolstreath raised her hands in horror, "think
of what you are doing. The servants may be in at any moment. Come to the
drawing-room and have coffee. The motor-car is waiting and--hush,
separate, separate," cried the chaperon, "someone is coming!"

She spoke truly, for the lovers had just time to fly asunder when Sir
Charles's secretary entered swiftly. He was a lean, tall, haggard-looking
young fellow of thirty with a pallid complexion and scanty light hair.
A thin moustache half concealed a weak mouth, and he blinked his eyes in a
nervous manner when he bowed to the ladies and excused his presence.
"Sir Charles left his spectacles here," he said in a soft and rather
unsteady voice, "he sent me for them and--" he had glided to the other
side of the table by this time--"oh, here they are! The motor-car waits,
Miss Moon."

"Where is my father?" asked Lillian irrelevantly. "Tell me, Mr. Penn."

"In the library, Miss Moon," said the secretary glibly, "but he cannot see
anyone just now--not even you, Miss Moon."

"Why not?"

"He is waiting to interview an official from Scotland Yard--a Mr. Durwin
on important business."

"You see," murmured Dan to Lillian in an undertone, "your father intends
to lock me up for daring to love you."

Miss Moon took no notice. "What is the business?" she asked sharply.

"Indeed I don't know, Miss Moon. It is strictly private. Sir Charles has
related nothing to me. And if you will excuse me--if you don't mind--these
spectacles are wanted and--" he babbled himself out of the room, while
Mrs. Bolstreath turned on her charge.

"You don't mean to say, you foolish child, that you were going to see your
father about this," she indicated Halliday.

"I don't care about being called a 'this'!" said Dan, stiffly.

Neither lady noticed the protest. "I want to make it clear to my father as
soon as possible, that I shall marry Dan and no one else," declared
Lillian, pursing up her pretty mouth obstinately.

"Then take him at the right moment," retorted Mrs. Bolstreath crossly, for
the late interview had tried even her amiable temper. "Just now he is
seething with indignation that an aviator should dare to raise his eyes
to you."

"Aviators generally look down," said Dan flippantly; "am I to be allowed
to take you and Lillian to the theatre this evening?"

"Yes. Although Sir Charles mentioned that you would do better to spend
your money on other things than mere frivolity."

"Oh!" said Halliday with a shrug, "as to that, this particular frivolity
is costing me nothing. I got the box from Freddy Laurance, who is on that
very up-to-date newspaper 'The Moment' as a reporter. I have dined at my
future father-in-law's expense, and now I go in his motor-car without
paying for the trip. I don't see that my pleasures could cost me less.
Even Sir Charles must be satisfied with such strict economy."

"Sir Charles will be satisfied with nothing save a promise for you to go
away and leave Lillian alone," said Mrs. Bolstreath, sadly; "he has no
feeling of romance such as makes me foolish enough to encourage a pauper."

"You called me that before," said Dan, coolly; "well, there's no getting
over facts. I am a pauper, but I love Lillian."

"And I--" began Lillian, advancing, only to be waved back and prevented
from speaking further by Mrs. Bolstreath.

"Don't make love before my very eyes," she said crossly; "after all I am
paid to keep you two apart, and--and--well, there's no time for coffee, so
we had better finish the discussion in the car. There is plenty of time
between Hampstead and the Strand to allow of a long argument.
And remember, Dan," Mrs. Bolstreath turned at the door to shake her
finger, "this is your last chance of uninterrupted conversation with
Lillian."

"Let us make honey while the flowers bloom," whispered Halliday,
poetically, and stole a final and hasty kiss before he led the girl after
the amiable dragon, who had already left the room.

The lovers found her talking to a poorly-dressed and rather stout female
clothed in rusty mourning, who looked the picture of decent but
respectable poverty. The entrance door stood open, and the waiting
motor-car could be seen at the steps, while the footman stood near Mrs.
Bolstreath, watching her chatting to the stranger and wearing an injured
expression. It seemed that the decent woman wished to see Sir Charles, and
the footman had refused her admission since his master was not to be
disturbed. The woman--she called herself Mrs. Brown and was extremely
tearful--had therefore appealed to the dragon, who was explaining that she
could do nothing.

"Oh, but I am sure you can get Sir Charles Moon to see me, my lady,"
wailed Mrs. Brown with a dingy handkerchief to her red eyes, "my son has
been lost overboard off one of those steamers Sir Charles owns, and I want
to ask him to give me some money. My son was my only support, and now I
am starving."

Lillian knew that her father owned a number of tramp steamers, which
picked up cargoes all over the world, and saw no reason why the woman
should not have the interview since her son had been drowned while in
Moon's service. The hour was certainly awkward, since Sir Charles had an
appointment before he went down to the House. But a starving woman and a
sorrowful woman required some consideration, so she stepped forward
hastily and touched Mrs. Brown's rusty cloak.

"I shall ask my father to see you," she said quickly; "wait here!" and
without consulting Mrs. Bolstreath she went impulsively to her father's
study, while Mrs. Brown dabbed her eyes with the handkerchief and called
down blessings on her young head.

Dan believed the story of the lost son, but doubted the tale of
starvation, as Mrs. Brown looked too stout to have been without food for
any length of time. He looked hard at her face, which was more wrinkled
than a fat woman's should be; although such lines might be ascribed to
grief. She wept profusely and was so overcome with sorrow that she let
down a ragged veil when she saw Dan's eager gaze. The young gentleman, she
observed, could not understand a mother's feelings, or he would not make a
show of her by inquisitive glances. The remark was somewhat irrelevant,
and the action of letting down the veil unnecessary, but much might be
pardoned to a woman so obviously afflicted.

Dan was about to excuse his inquiring looks, when Lillian danced back with
the joyful information that her father would see Mrs. Brown for a few
minutes if she went in at once. "And I have asked him to help you," said
the girl, patting the fearful woman's shoulder, as she passed to the
motor-car. "Oh! it's past eight o'clock. Dan, we'll never be in time."

"The musical comedy doesn't begin until nine," Halliday assured her, and
in a few minutes the three of them were comfortably seated in the
luxurious car, which whirled at break-neck speed towards the Strand.

Of course Lillian and Dan took every advantage of the opportunity, seeing
that Mrs. Bolstreath was sympathetic enough to close her eyes to their
philanderings. They talked all the way to the Curtain Theatre; they talked
all through the musical comedy; and talked all the way back to the house
at Hampstead. Mrs. Bolstreath, knowing that the young couple would not
have another opportunity for uninterrupted love-making, and being entirely
in favour of the match, attended to the stage and left them to whisper
unreproved. She could not see why Dan, whom Lillian had loved since the
pair had played together as children, should be set aside in favour of a
dry-as-dust barrister, even though he had lately come into a fortune and a
title. "But of course," said Mrs. Bolstreath between the acts, "if you
could only invent a perfect flying-machine, they would make you a duke or
something and give you a large income. Then you could marry."

"What are you talking about, Bolly darling?" asked Lillian, much puzzled,
as she could not be supposed to know what was going on inside her
friend's head.

"About you and Dan, dear. He has no money and--"

"I shall make heaps and heaps of money," said Dan, sturdily; "aviation is
full of paying possibilities, and the nation that first obtains command of
the air will rule the world. I'm no fool!"

"You're a commoner," snapped Mrs. Bolstreath quickly, "and unless, as I
said, you are made a duke for inventing a perfect aeroplane, Lord Curberry
is certainly a better match for Lillian."

"He's as dull as tombs," said Miss Moon with her pretty nose in the air.

"You can't expect to have everything, my dear child."

"I can expect to have Dan," retorted Lillian decidedly, whereat Dan
whispered sweet words and squeezed his darling's gloved hand.

"Well," said Mrs. Bolstreath, as the curtain rose on the second act, "I'll
do my best to help you since I believe in young love and true love.
Hush, children, people are looking! Attend to the stage."

Dan and Lillian did their best to follow her advice and sat demurely in
the box side by side, watching the heroine flirt in a duet with the hero,
both giving vent to their feelings in a lively musical number. But they
really took little interest in "The Happy Bachelor!" as the piece was
called, in spite of the pretty girls and the picturesque scenery.
They were together and that was all they cared about, and although a dark
cloud of parental opposition hovered over them, they were not yet
enveloped in its gloom. And after all, since Mrs. Bolstreath was strongly
prejudiced in their favour, Lillian hoped that she might induce Sir
Charles to change his mind concerning Lord Curberry. He loved his daughter
dearly and would not like to see her unhappy, as she certainly would be if
compelled to marry any one but The One. Lillian said this to Mrs.
Bolstreath and to Dan several times on the way home, and they entirely
agreed with her.

"Although I haven't much influence with Sir Charles," Mrs. Bolstreath
warned them, "and he is fond of having his own way."

"He always does what I ask," said Lillian confidently. "Why, although he
was so busy this evening, he saw Mrs. Brown when I pleaded for her."

"He couldn't resist you," whispered Dan fondly; "no one could."

Mrs. Bolstreath argued this point, saying that Lillian was Sir Charles's
daughter, and fathers could not be expected to feel like lovers. She also
mentioned that she was jeopardising her situation by advocating the match,
which was certainly a bad one from a financial point of view, and would
probably be turned out of doors as an old romantic fool. The lovers
assured her she was the most sensible of women and that if she was turned
out of doors they would take her into the cottage where they proposed to
reside like two turtle doves. Then came laughter and kisses and the
feeling that the world was not such a bad place after all. It was a very
merry trio that alighted at the door of Moon's great Hampstead mansion.

Then came a shock, the worse for being wholly unexpected. At the door the
three were met by Marcus Penn, who was Moon's secretary. He looked leaner
and more haggard than ever, and his general attitude was that of the
bearer of evil news. Dan and Lillian and Mrs. Bolstreath stared at him in
amazement. "You may as well know the worst at once, Miss Moon," said Penn,
his lips quivering with nervousness, "your father is dead. He has
been murdered."



Chapter II. A COMPLETE MYSTERY

It was Mrs. Bolstreath who carried Lillian upstairs in her stout arms, for
when Penn made his brusque announcement the girl fainted straight away,
which was very natural considering the horror of the information.
Dan remained behind to tell the secretary that he was several kinds of
fool, since no one but a superfine ass would blurt out so terrible a story
to a delicate girl. Not that Penn had told much, for Lillian had become
unconscious the moment her bewildered brain grasped that the father she
had left a few hours earlier in good health and spirits was now a corpse.
But he told more to Dan, and mentioned that Mr. Durwin was in the library
wherein the death had taken place.

"Mr. Durwin? Who is Mr. Durwin?" asked Dan trying to collect his sense,
which had been scattered by the dreadful news.

"An official from Scotland Yard; I told you so after dinner," said Penn in
an injured tone; "he came to see Sir Charles by appointment at nine
o'clock and found him a corpse."

"Sir Charles was alive when we left shortly after eight," remarked Dan
sharply; "at a quarter-past eight, to be precise. What took place in the
meantime?"

"Obviously the violent death of Sir Charles," faltered the secretary.

"What evidence have you to show that he died by violence?" asked Halliday.

"Mr. Durwin called in a doctor, and he says that Sir Charles has been
poisoned," blurted out Penn uneasily. "I believe that woman--Mrs. Brown
she called herself--poisoned him. She left the house at a quarter to nine,
so the footman says, for he let her out, and--"

"It is impossible that a complete stranger should poison Sir Charles,"
interrupted Dan impatiently; "she would not have the chance."

"She was alone with Sir Charles for thirty minutes, more or less," said
Penn tartly; "she had every chance and she took it."

"But how could she induce Sir Charles to drink poison?"

"She didn't induce him to drink anything. The doctor says that the scratch
at the back of the dead man's neck--"

"Here!" Dan roughly pushed the secretary aside, becoming impatient of the
scrappy way in which he detailed what had happened. "Let me go to the
library for myself and see what has happened. Sir Charles can't be dead."

"It's twelve o'clock now," retorted Penn, stepping aside, "and he's been
dead quite three hours, as the doctor will tell you."

Before the man finished his sentence, Dan, scarcely grasping the
situation, so rapidly had it evolved, ran through the hall towards the
back of the spacious house, where the library was situated. He dashed into
the large and luxuriously furnished room and collided with a police
officer, who promptly took him by the shoulder. There were three other men
in the room, who turned from the corpse they were looking at when they
heard the noise of Halliday's abrupt entrance. The foremost man, and the
one who spoke first, was short and stout and arrayed in uniform, with cold
grey eyes, and a hard mouth.

"What's this--what's this?" he demanded in a raucous voice. "Who are you?"

"My name is Halliday," said Dan hurriedly. "I am engaged to Miss Moon and
we have just returned from the theatre to hear--to hear--" He caught sight
of Moon's body seated in the desk-chair and drooping limply over the
table. "Oh, it is true, then! He is dead. Good heavens! Who murdered him?"

"How do you know that Sir Charles has been murdered?" asked the officer
sternly.

"Mr. Penn, the secretary, told me just now in the hall," said Dan, shaking
himself free of the policeman. "He blurted it out like a fool, and Miss
Moon has fainted. Mrs. Bolstreath has taken her upstairs. But how did it
come about? Who found the body, and--"

"I found the body," interrupted one of the other men, who was tall and
calm-faced, with a bald head and a heavy iron-grey moustache, perfectly
clothed in fashionable evening-dress, and somewhat imperious in his manner
of speaking. "I had an appointment with Sir Charles at nine o'clock and
came here to find him, as you now see him"--he waved his hand towards the
desk--"the doctor will tell you how he died."

"By poison," said the third man, who was dark, young, unobtrusive and
retiring in manner. "You see this deep scratch on the back of the neck.
In that way the poison was administered. I take it that Sir Charles was
bending over his desk and the person who committed the crime scratched him
with some very sharp instrument impregnated with poison."

"Mrs. Brown!" gasped Dan, staring at the heavy swollen body of his late
guardian, who, only a few hours back, had been in perfect health.

The three men glanced at one another as he said the name, and even the
policeman on guard at the door looked interested. The individual in
uniform spoke with his cold eyes on Dan's agitated face. "What do you know
of Mrs. Brown, Mr. Halliday?" he demanded abruptly.

"Don't you know that a woman of that name called here?"

"Yes. The secretary, Mr. Penn, told us that Miss Moon induced her father
to see a certain Mrs. Brown, who claimed that her son had been drowned
while working on one of the steamers owned by Sir Charles. You saw her
also I believe?"

"I was in the hall when Miss Moon went to induce her father to see the
poor woman. That was about a quarter past eight o'clock."

"And Mrs. Brown--as we have found from inquiry--left the house at a
quarter to nine. Do you think she is guilty?"

"I can't say. Didn't the footman see the body--that is, if Mrs. Brown
committed the crime--when he came to show her out? Sir Charles would
naturally ring his bell when the interview was over, and the footman would
come to conduct her to the door."

"Sir Charles never rang his bell!" said the officer, drily. "Mrs. Brown
passed through the entrance hall at a quarter to nine o'clock, and
mentioned to the footman--quite unnecessarily, I think--that Sir Charles
had given her money. He let her out of the house. Naturally, the footman,
not hearing any bell, did not enter this room, nor--so far as any one else
is concerned--did a single person. Only when Mr. Durwin--"

"I came at nine o'clock," interrupted the bald-headed man imperiously, "to
keep my appointment. The footman told Mr. Penn, who took me to Sir
Charles. He knocked but there was no answer, so he opened the door and we
saw this." He again waved his hand towards the body.

"Does Mr. Penn know nothing?" asked Halliday, doubtfully.

"No," answered the other. "Inspector Tenson has questioned him carefully
in my presence. Mr. Penn says that he brought Sir Charles his spectacles
from the dining-room before you left for the theatre with the two ladies,
and then was sent to his own room by his employer to write the usual
letters. He remained there until nine o'clock when he was called out to
receive me, and we know that Mr. Penn speaks truly, for the typewriting
girl who was typing Sir Charles's letters to Mr. Penn's dictation, says
that he did not leave the room all the time."

"May I look at the body?" asked Dan approaching the desk, and on receiving
an affirmative reply from Durwin, bent over the dead.

The corpse was much swollen, the face indeed being greatly bloated, while
the deep scratch on the nape of the neck looked venomous and angry. Yet it
was a slight wound to bring about so great a catastrophe, and the poison
must have been very deadly and swift; deadly because apparently Sir
Charles had no time to move before it did its work, and swift because he
could not even have called for assistance, which he surely would have done
had he been able to keep his senses. Dan mentioned this to the watchful
doctor, who nodded.

"I can't say for certain," he remarked cautiously, "but I fancy that
snake-poison has been used. That will be seen to, when the post-mortem
is made."

"And this fly?" Halliday pointed to an insect which was just behind the
left ear of the dead man.

"Fly!" echoed Inspector Tenson in surprise, and hastily advancing to look.
"A fly in November. Impossible! Yet it is a fly, and dead. If not," he
swept the neck of the corpse with his curved hand, "it would get away.
H'm! Now I wonder what this means? Get me a magnifying glass."

There was not much difficulty in procuring one, as such an article lay on
the desk itself; being used, no doubt, by Sir Charles to aid his failing
sight when he examined important documents. Tenson inspected the fly and
removed it--took it to a near electric light and examined it. Then he came
back and examined the place behind the left ear whence he had removed it.

"It's been gummed on," he declared in surprise--a surprise which was also
visible in the faces of the other men; "you can see the glistening spot on
the skin, and the fly's legs are sticky." He balanced the fly on his
little finger as he spoke. "I am sure they are sticky, although it is hard
to say with such a small insect. However," he carefully put away the fly
in a silver match-box, "we'll have this examined under a more powerful
glass. You are all witnesses, gentlemen, that a fly was found near the
wound which caused Sir Charles Moon's death."

"And the scent? What about the scent?" Dan sniffed as he spoke and then
bent his nose to the dead man. "It seems to come from the clothes."

"Scent!" echoed Durwin sharply, and sniffed. "Yes, I observed that scent.
But I did not take any notice of it."

"Nor did I," said the doctor. "I noticed it also."

"And I," followed on the Inspector, "and why should we take notice of it,
Mr. Halliday? Many men use scent."

"Sir Charles never did," said Dan emphatically; "he hated scents of all
kinds even when women used them. He certainly would never have used them
himself. I'll swear to that."

"Then this scent assumes importance." Durwin sniffed again, and held his
aquiline nose high. "It is fainter now. But I smelt it very strongly when
I first came in and looked at the body. A strange perfume it is."

The three men tried to realise the peculiar odour of the scent, and became
aware that it was rich and heavy and sickly, and somewhat drowsy in its
suggestion.

"A kind of thing to render a man sleepy," said Dan, musingly.

"Or insensible," said Inspector Tenson hastily, and put his nose to the
dead man's chin and mouth. He shook his head as he straightened himself.
"I fancied from your observation, Mr. Halliday, that the scent might have
been used as a kind of chloroform, but there's no smell about the face.
It comes from the clothes," he sniffed again; "yes, it certainly comes
from the clothes. Did you smell this scent on Mrs. Brown?" he demanded,
suddenly.

"No, I did not," admitted Halliday promptly, "otherwise I should certainly
have noted it. I have a keen sense of smell. Mrs. Bolstreath and Lil--I
mean Miss Moon--might have noticed it, however."

At that moment, as if in answer to her name, the door opened suddenly and
Lillian brushed past the policeman in a headlong entrance into the
library. Her fair hair was in disorder, her face was bloodless, and her
eyes were staring and wild. Behind her came Mrs. Bolstreath hurriedly,
evidently trying to restrain her. But the girl would not be restrained,
and rushed forward scattering the small group round the dead, to fling
herself on the body.

"Oh, Father, Father!" she sobbed, burying her face on the shoulder of her
dearly-loved parent. "How awful it is. Oh, my heart will break. How shall
I ever get over it. Father! Father! Father!"

She wept and wailed so violently that the four men were touched by her
great grief. Both Mr. Durwin and Inspector Tenson had daughters of their
own, while the young doctor was engaged. They could feel for her
thoroughly, and no one made any attempt to remove her from the body until
Mrs. Bolstreath stepped forward. "Lillian, darling. Lillian, my child,"
she said soothingly, and tried to lead the poor girl away.

But Lillian only clung closer to her beloved dead. "No! No! Let me alone.
I can't leave him. Poor, dear Father--oh, I shall die!"

"Dear," said Mrs. Bolstreath, raising her firmly but kindly, "your father
is not there, but in heaven! Only the clay remains."

"It is all I have. And Father was so good, so kind--oh, who can have
killed him in this cruel way?" She looked round with streaming eyes.

"We think that a Mrs. Brown--" began the Inspector, only to be answered by
a loud cry from the distraught girl.

"Mrs. Brown! Then I have killed Father! I have killed him! I persuaded him
to see the woman, because she was in trouble. And she killed him--oh, the
wretch--the--the--oh--oh! What had I done to her that she should rob me of
my dear, kind father?" and she cried bitterly in her old friend's
tender arms.

"Had you ever seen Mrs. Brown before?" asked Durwin in his imperious
voice, although he lowered it in deference to her grief.

Lillian winced at the harsh sound. "No, no! I never saw her before.
How could I have seen her before? She said that her son had been drowned,
and that she was poor. I asked Father to help her, and he told me he
would. It's my fault that she saw my father and now"--her voice leaped an
octave--"he's dead. Oh--oh! my father--my father!" and she tried to break
from Mrs. Bolstreath's arms to fling herself on the dead once more.

"Lillian darling, don't cry," said Dan, placing his hand on her shoulder.

"You have not lost the dearest and best of fathers!" she sobbed violently.

"Your loss is my loss," said Halliday in a voice of pain, "but we must be
brave, both you and I." He associated himself with her so as to calm her
grief. "It's not your fault that your dear father is dead."

"I persuaded him to see Mrs. Brown. And she--she--she--"

"We can't say if this woman is guilty, as yet," said Durwin hastily, "so
do not blame yourself, Miss Moon. But did you smell any scent on this
Mrs. Brown?"

Lillian looked at him vacantly and shook her head. Then she burst once
more into hard and painful sobbing, trying again to embrace the dead man.

"Don't ask her any questions, Sir," said Halliday, in a low voice to Mr.
Durwin, "you see she is not in a fit state to reply. Lillian," he raised
her up from her knees and gently but firmly detached her arms from the
dead. "My darling, your father is past all earthly aid. We can do nothing
but avenge him. Go with Mrs. Bolstreath and lie down. We must be firm."

"Firm! Firm--and Father dead!" wailed Lillian. "Oh, what a wretch that
Mrs. Brown must be to kill him! Kill her, Dan--oh, make her suffer!
My good, kind father, who--who--oh"--she flung herself on Dan's
neck--"take me away! take me away!" and her lover promptly carried her to
the door.

Mrs. Bolstreath, who had been talking hurriedly to Inspector Tenson, came
after the pair and took the girl from Dan. "She must lie down and have a
sleeping-draught," she said softly. "If the doctor will come--"

The doctor was only too glad to come. He was a young man beginning to
practise medicine in the neighbourhood, and had been hurriedly summoned in
default of an older physician. The chance of gaining a new and wealthy
patient was too good to lose, so he quickly followed Mrs. Bolstreath as
she led the half-unconscious girl up the stairs. Dan closed the door and
returned to the Inspector and the official from Scotland Yard. The former
was speaking.

"Mrs. Bolstreath did not smell any perfume on Mrs. Brown," he was saying,
"and ladies are very quick to notice such things. Miss Moon also shook
her head."

"I don't think Miss Moon was in a state of mind to understand what you
were saying, Mr. Inspector," said Halliday, drily. "However, I am quite
sure from my own observation that Mrs. Brown did not use the perfume.
I would have noticed it at once, for I spotted it the moment I examined
the body."

"So did I," said Durwin once more; "but I thought Sir Charles might have
used it. You say he did not, therefore the scent is a clue."

"It does not lead to the indictment of Mrs. Brown, however, Sir," said
Tenson thoughtfully, "since she had no perfume of that sort about her.
But she must have killed Sir Charles, for she was the last person who saw
him alive."

"She may come forward and exonerate herself," suggested Dan after a pause,
"or she may have left her address with Sir Charles."

"I have glanced through the papers on the desk and can find no address,"
was the Inspector's reply; "yet, if she gave it to him, it would
be there."

Durwin meditated, then looked up. "As she was the mother of the man in Sir
Charles's employment who was drowned," he said in his harsh voice, and now
very official in his manner, "in the offices of the company who own the
steamers--Sir Charles was a director and chief shareholder, I understand
from his secretary Mr. Penn--will be found the drowned man's address,
which will be that of his mother."

"But I can't see what motive Mrs. Brown had to murder Sir Charles,"
remarked Dan in a puzzled tone.

"We'll learn the motive when we find Mrs. Brown," said Tenson, who had
made a note of Durwin's suggestion. "Many people think they have
grievances against the rich, and we know that the late Sir Charles was a
millionaire. He doubtless had enemies--dangerous enemies."

"Dangerous!" The word recalled to Dan what Moon had said at the
dinner-table when Lillian had playfully offered him a penny for his
thoughts. "Sir Charles at dinner said something about dangerous people."

"What did he say?" asked the Inspector and again opened his note-book.

Dan reported the conversation, which was not very satisfactory, as Moon
had only spoken generally. Tenson noted down the few remarks, but did not
appear to think them important. Durwin, however, was struck by what had
been said.

"Sir Charles asked me here to explain about a certain gang he believed was
in existence," he remarked.

"What's that, Sir?" asked the Inspector alertly. "Did he tell you
anything?"

"Of course he didn't. How could he when he was dead when I arrived?"
retorted Durwin with a frown. "He simply said that he wished to see me in
my official capacity about some gang, but gave me no details. Those were
to be left until I called here. He preferred to see me here instead of at
my office for reasons which he declared he would state when we met in
this room."

"Then you think that a gang--"

"Mr. Inspector," interrupted Durwin, stiffly, "I have told you all that
was said by the deceased. Whether the gang is dangerous, or what the
members do, or where they are, I cannot say. Have you examined these
windows?" he asked suddenly, pointing to three French-windows at the side
of the room.

"Yes," said Tenson promptly, "as soon as I entered the apartment I did so.
They are all locked."

"And if they were not, no one could enter there," put in Dan quickly.
"Outside is a walled garden and the wall is very high with broken bottles
on top. I suppose, Mr. Durwin, you are thinking that someone may have come
in to kill Sir Charles between the time of Mrs. Brown's departure and
your coming?"

"Yes," assented the other sharply, "if the perfume is a clue, Mrs. Brown
must be innocent. Penn, as we know from the statement of the typewriter
girl, was in his room all the time, and the servants have fully accounted
for themselves. We examined them all--the Inspector and I did, that
is--when you were at the theatre," he waved his hand with a shrug. "Who
can say who is guilty?"

"Well," said Tenson, snapping the elastic-band round his note-book and
putting it into his pocket, "we have the evidence of the fly and
the perfume."

"What do you think about the fly?" asked Dan, staring.

"I don't know what to think. It is an artificial fly, exquisitely made and
has been gummed on the dead man's neck behind the left ear. The assassin
must have placed it there, since a man would scarcely do such a silly
thing himself. Why it was placed there I can't say, any more than I can
guess why Sir Charles was murdered, or who murdered him. The affair is a
complete mystery, as you must admit."

Before the inquest and after the inquest, more people than the three men
who had held the discussion in the presence of the dead, admitted that the
affair was a mystery. In fact the evidence at the inquest only plunged the
matter into deeper gloom. Tenson, acting on Darwin's advice, sought the
office of the tramp-steamer company--the Universal Carrier Line--in which
the late Sir Charles was chief shareholder and director, to learn without
any difficulty the whereabouts of Mrs. Brown, the mother of the drowned
man. She proved to be an entirely different person to the woman who had
given the name on the fatal night, being lean instead of stout,
comparatively young instead of old, and rather handsome in an elderly way
in place of being wrinkled and worn with grief. She declared that she had
never been near Moon's house on the night of the murder or on any other
night. Mrs. Bolstreath, Lillian, the footman, and Dan all swore that she
was not the Mrs. Brown who had sought the interview with Sir Charles.
Therefore it was argued by everyone that Mrs. Brown, taking a false name
and telling a false story, must have come to see Moon with the deliberate
intention of murdering him. Search was made for her, but she could not be
found. From the moment she passed out of the front door she had vanished,
and although a description was published of her appearance, and a reward
was offered for her apprehension, no one came forward to claim it.
Guilty or innocent, she was invisible.

Inspector Tenson did not speak at the inquest of the gang about which Sir
Charles had intended to converse with Mr. Durwin, as it did not seem to
have any bearing on the case. Also, as Durwin suggested, if it had any
bearing it was best to keep the matter quiet until more evidence was
forthcoming to show that such a gang--whatever its business was--existed.
Then the strange episode of the fly was suppressed for the same reason.
Privately, Tenson informed Dan that he would not be surprised to learn
that there was a gang of murderers in existence whose sign-manual was a
fly, real or artificial, and instanced another gang, which had been broken
up some years previously, who always impressed the figure of a purple fern
on their victims. But the whole idea, said Tenson, was so vague that he
thought it best to suppress the fact of the artificial fly on the dead
man's neck. "If there's anything in it," finished the Inspector, "there's
sure to be other murders committed, and the fly placed on the victim.
We'll wait and see, and if a second case occurs, we'll be sure that
such a gang exists and will collar the beasts. Best to say nothing,
Mr. Halliday."

So he said nothing, and Dan said nothing, and Durwin, who approved of the
necessary secrecy, held his tongue. Of course there was a lot of talk and
many theories as to who had murdered the millionaire, and why he had been
murdered in so ingenious a manner. The post-mortem examination proved that
Moon had died of snake-poison administered through the scratch on the
neck, and the circumstantial evidence at the inquest went to show that he
must have been taken unawares, while bending over his desk. Some people
thought that Mrs. Brown was innocent because of the absence of the
perfume; others declared she must be guilty on account of her false name
and false story, and the fact that Moon was found dead a quarter of an
hour after she left the house. No doubt, the circumstantial evidence was
very strong, but it could not be said positively that the woman was
guilty, even though she did not appear to defend her character.

So the jury thought, for they brought in the only possible verdict twelve
good and lawful men could bring in: "Wilful murder against some person or
persons unknown," and there the matter ended for sheer want of further
evidence. The affair was a mystery and a mystery it remained.

"And will until the Day of Judgment!" said Tenson, finally.



Chapter III. DUTY BEFORE PLEASURE

The year ended sadly for Lillian, since she had lost her father, her
lover, and her home, gaining instead the doubtful companionship of a
paternal uncle, who stepped into the position of guardian. The girl,
although she did not know it at the time, was leaving a pleasant flowery
lane to turn into a flinty high road, arched by a dismal sky. It is true
that she still possessed Mrs. Bolstreath to comfort her, but the loss of
Dan could scarcely be compensated by the attentions of the chaperon.
Not that Halliday was altogether lost; but he had been pushed out of her
life by Sir John Moon, who approved as little of this suitor as the late
baronet had done.

"You see, my dear child," he explained to Lillian, immediately after the
new year and when things were more restful, "as your guardian and uncle, I
have to see that you make a good match."

"What is marriage without love?" queried Miss Moon scornfully.

"Love!" Sir John shrugged his elegant shoulders and sneered. "Love is all
very well, but a title is better. I say nothing about money, as you have
any amount of that useful article. Now, Lord Curberry--"

"I detest Lord Curberry, and I shan't marry Lord Curberry," interrupted
Lillian, frowning, and her mind held a picture of the lean, ascetic peer
with the cruel, grey eyes. As a barrister, Curberry was no doubt
admirable; as a nobleman, he filled his new position very well; but she
could not see him as a lover, try as she might. Not that she did try,
for under no conditions and under no pressure did she intend to become
his wife."

"Your father wished you to marry Lord Curberry," hinted Uncle John softly.

"My father wished me to be happy," cried Lillian hotly, "and I can't be
happy unless I marry Dan."

"That aviator man! Pooh! He has nothing to give you."

"He gives himself, and that is all I want."

"I see. Love in a cottage and--"

Lillian interrupted again. "There's no need for love in a cottage. I have
plenty of money; you said as much yourself, Uncle John."

"My dear," said the new baronet gravely, "from what I saw of young
Halliday he is too proud a man to live on his wife. And you would not
respect him if he did. I think better of you than that, my child."

"Dan has his profession."

"H'm! And a dangerous one at that. Besides, he doesn't make much money."

"He will though. Dan is a genius; he has all kinds of ideas about flying
machines, and some day he will conquer the air."

"Meantime, you will be growing old waiting for him."

"Not at all," Lillian assured him. "I shall be with him, helping all
I can."

"You won't with my consent," cried her uncle, heatedly.

"Then I shall do without your consent. I shan't give up Dan."

"In that case," sighed Sir John, rising to show that the interview was
ended--and certainly it had ended in a clash of wills--"there is nothing
for me to do but to make young Halliday give you up."

"He'll never do that," said Miss Moon, pausing at the door with a
fluttering heart, for her uncle spoke very decidedly.

"Oh, I think so," replied Moon, with the air of a man sure of his ground.
"He has, I am sure, some notion of honour."

"It isn't honourable to give up a woman."

"It isn't honourable to live on a woman."

The two antagonists glared at one another, and a silence ensued.
Neither would give way, and neither would compromise in any way.
Lillian wanted Dan as her husband, a post Sir John did not intend the
young man to fill. But he saw plainly enough that harsh measures would
drive Lillian to desperation, and he did not yet know sufficient of
Halliday to be sure that he would not grasp at a rich wife. Sir John
believed that men were like himself, and would do anything--honourable,
or, at a pinch, dishonourable--to secure a life of ease and comfort.
However, as he swiftly reflected, Halliday was young, and probably would
be wax in the hands of a clever man, such as Moon considered himself to
be. It would be best to see him and control the boy's mind by appealing to
his decency--so Sir John put it.

"Very good, my dear," he said, when he reached this point, "matters are at
a dead-lock between us. I suggest that you let me interview Halliday."

"I don't mind, so long as I see him first," pouted the girl, mutinously.

Sir John smiled drily. "So as to arm him for the fray. Very well.
I consent, my dear. You can arrange your campaign, and then I can discuss
the matter with this very undesirable suitor. But you must give me your
promise that you will not run away with him meanwhile."

Lillian held herself very erect and replied stiffly. "Of course I promise,
Uncle John. I am not ashamed of loving Dan, and I shall marry him in a
proper manner. But I shan't marry Lord Curberry," she ended, and fairly
ran away, so as to prevent further objections.

"Oh, my dear, I think you will," grinned Sir John at the closed door, and
he sat down to pen a diplomatic letter to Mr. Halliday, earnestly wishing
to have the matter settled and done with. "These romantic young
nuisances," said the schemer crossly.

The new baronet was a slim, well-preserved dandy of sixty, who looked no
older than forty-five, owing to the means he took to keep himself fit.
He was the younger and only brother of Moon, and inherited the title since
there was no nephew to take it. He also inherited ten thousand a year on
condition that he acted as Lillian's guardian. It was no mean task, for
the girl had an income of 50,000 coming in every twelve months.
There would be plenty of hard-up flies gathering round this honey-pot, and
Sir John foresaw that it would not be an easy business to settle the young
lady's matrimonial future, especially as the said young lady was obstinate
beyond belief. Sir John, being a loafer by nature, had never possessed
sufficient money to indulge to the full in his luxurious tastes, since his
brother had not financed him as largely as he could have wished. But now
that he was safe for the rest of his life on an income which would enable
him to enjoy the world's good, Sir John did not wish to be bothered.
It was his aim to get his niece married and settled as soon as possible,
so that she could be looked after by a husband.

Under these circumstances, and since Lillian was anxious to marry Dan, it
was strange that the baronet should not allow her to indulge her fancy.
He objected for two reasons: one was that he really did not think Halliday
a good match; and, moreover, he knew of his late brother's opinion
concerning the matter of the wooing. The second reason had to do with the
fact that he had borrowed a large sum of money from Lord Curberry, and did
not wish to pay it back again, even though he could do so easily enough in
his present flourishing circumstances. Curberry offered to forego the
payment if Sir John could persuade Lillian to marry him. And as Moon
wanted to be able to talk about the girl as a peeress, and did not want to
reduce his new income by frittering it away in paying back debts, he was
determined to bring about the very desirable marriage, as he truly
considered it to be.

"Curberry is sure to go in for politics," thought the plotter, "and he has
enough brains to become Prime Minister if he likes. He's got a decent
income, too, and a very old title. With Lillian's money and beauty she
should have a titled husband. Besides," this was an after-thought,
"Curberry can make himself deuced disagreeable if he likes." And perhaps
it was this last idea which made Sir John so anxious for the marriage to
take place.

The late Sir Charles had been a big, burly, broad-shouldered man, with a
powerful clean-shaven face--the kind of over-bearing, pushing personality
which was bound to come up top wherever men were congregated. And Sir
Charles had massively pushed his way from poverty to affluence, from
obscurity into notoriety, if not fame. Now his honours and wealth were in
the hands of two people infinitely weaker than he had been. Lillian was
but a delicate girl, solely bent upon marriage with an undesirable suitor,
while Sir John had no desire to do anything with his new income and new
title save to enjoy the goods which the gods had sent him so unexpectedly.
He was by no means a strong man, being finical, self-indulgent, and quite
feminine in his love for dress and luxury. Much smaller and slighter than
his masterful brother, he was perfectly arrayed on all occasions in purple
and fine linen; very self-possessed, very polite, and invariably quiet in
his manner. He had several small talents, and indulged in painting,
poetry, and music, producing specimens of each as weak and neatly finished
as he was himself. He also collected china and stamps, old lace and
jewels, which he loved for their colour and glitter. Such a man was too
fantastical to earn the respect of Lillian, who adored the strength which
showed itself in Dan. Consequently, she felt certain that she would be
able to force him to consent to her desires.

But in this, the girl, inexperienced in worldly matters and in human
nature, reckoned without knowledge of Sir John's obstinacy, which was a
singularly striking trait of the man's character. Like most weak people
the new baronet loved to domineer, and, moreover, when his ease was at
stake, he could be strong even to cruelty, since fear begets that quality
as much as it fosters cowardice. Moon had removed Lillian and Mrs.
Bolstreath to his new house in Mayfair, because it was not wise that the
girl should remain at Hampstead where everything served to remind her of
the good father she had lost. Therefore Sir John wished for no trouble to
take place under his roof, as such--so he put it--would shatter his
nerves. The mere fact that Lillian wished to marry young Halliday, and
that Curberry wished to marry her, was a fruitful source of ills.
It stands to Sir John's credit that he did not take the easiest method of
getting rid of his niece by allowing her to become Mrs. Halliday. He had a
conscience of some sort, and intended to carry out his late brother's
desire that Lillian should become a peeress. So far as the girl's
inclinations were concerned he cared little, since he looked upon her as a
child who required guidance. And to guide her in the proper
direction--that is, towards the altar in Curberry's company--Sir John put
himself to considerable inconvenience, and acted honestly with the very
best intentions. His egotism--the powerful egotism of a weak
man--prevented him from seeing that Lillian was also a human being, and
had her right to freedom of choice.

It must be said that for a dilettante Sir John acted with surprising
promptitude. He took the two women to his own house, and let the mansion
at Hampstead to an Australian millionaire, who paid an excellent rent.
Then he saw the lawyers, and went into details concerning the property.
Luckily, Sir Charles had gradually withdrawn from business a few years
before his death, since he had more or less concentrated his mind on
politics. Therefore, the income was mostly well invested, and, with the
exception of the line of steamers with which Mrs. Brown's son had been
concerned, there were few interests which required personal supervision.
Sir John, having power under the will, sold the dead man's interest in the
ships, withdrew from several other speculations, and having seen that the
securities, which meant fifty thousand a year to Lillian, and ten thousand
a year to himself, were all in good order, he settled down to enjoy
results. The lawyers--on whom he kept an eye--received the money and
banked it, and consulted with Sir John regarding re-investments.
They also, by the new baronet's direction, offered a reward of 1,000 for
the discovery of the murderess. So, shortly after the new year everything
was more or less settled, and Sir John found himself able to attend once
more to his lace and jewels, his music and poetry. Only Lillian's marriage
remained to be arranged, and after his conversation with the girl, Sir
John appointed a day for Dan to call. That young gentleman, who had been
hovering round, lost no time in obeying the summons, which was worded
amiably enough, and presented himself in due time. Sir John received him
with great affability; offered him a chair and a cigarette, and came to
the point at once.

"It's about Lillian I wish to see you, Mr. Halliday," he remarked, placing
the tips of his fingers delicately together. "You can go up to the
drawing-room afterwards and have tea with her and with Mrs. Bolstreath.
But we must have a chat first to adjust the situation."

"What situation?" asked Dan, wilfully dense.

"Oh, I think you understand," rejoined Sir John, drily. "Well?"

"I love her," was all that Dan could find to say.

"Naturally. Lillian is a charming girl, and you are a young man of
discernment. At least, I hope so, as I wish you to give Lillian up."

Dan rose and pitched his cigarette into the fire. "Never!" he cried,
looking pale and determined and singularly virile and handsome. "How can
you ask such a thing, Mr. Moon--I mean Sir John."

"My new title doesn't come easily, I see," said the baronet smoothly.
"Oh, I quite understand! My poor brother died so unexpectedly that none of
us have got used to the new order of things. You least of all,
Mr. Halliday."

"Why not 'Dan'?" asked that young gentleman, leaning against the
mantelpiece since he felt that he could talk better standing than sitting.

"Because, as I say, there is a new order of things. I have known you all
your life, my dear boy, as your parents placed you in my late brother's
charge when you were only five years of age. But I say Mr. Halliday
instead of Dan as I wish you to understand that we are talking as
businessmen and not as old friends."

"You take away your friendship--"

"Not at all, Mr. Halliday. We shall be better friends than ever when we
have had our talk and you have done the right thing. Probably I shall then
call you Dan, as of yore."

"You can call me what you please," said Dan obstinately, and rather
angrily, for the fiddling methods of Sir John annoyed him. "But I won't
give up the dearest girl in the world."

"Her father wished her to marry Lord Curberry."

"If her father had lived, bless him!" retorted Halliday vehemently, "he
would have seen that Lillian loves me, and not Curberry, in which case he
would not have withheld his consent."

"Oh, I think he would," said Sir John amiably. "Lillian is rich, and my
poor brother wished to obtain a title for her. Very natural, Mr. Halliday,
as you must see for yourself. Charles always aimed at high things."

"He loved Lillian and would not have seen her unhappy," said Dan bluffly.

"I don't see that Curberry would make her unhappy. He is devoted to her."

"But she does not love him," argued Halliday crossly; "and how can there
be happiness when love is lacking? Come, Sir John, you have, as you said
just now, known me all my life. I am honourable and clean-living and
well-born, while Lillian loves me. What objection have you to the match?"

"The same objection as my brother had, Mr. Halliday. Lillian is wealthy
and you are poor."

"I have only a few hundreds a year, it is true, but--"

"No 'buts' if you please." Sir John flung up a delicate hand in protest.
"You can't argue away facts. If you marry Lillian, you will live on her."

Dan bit his lip and clenched his hands to prevent his temper from showing
itself too strongly. "If another man had said that to me, Sir John, I
should have knocked him down."

"Brute force is no argument," rejoined Moon unruffled. "Consider, Mr.
Halliday, you have a few hundreds a year and Lillian has fifty thousand
coming in every twelve months. Being wealthy, she can scarcely live on
your income, so to keep up the position she has been born to she must live
on her own. Husband and wife are one, as we are assured by the Church,
therefore if she lives on the fifty thousand per annum, you must live on
it also."

"I wouldn't take a single penny!" cried Dan, hotly and boyishly.

"Oh, I am not suggesting that you would," said Sir John easily, "but
Lillian cannot live in the cottage your few hundreds would run to, and if
she lives, as she must, being rich, in a large house, you must live there
also, and in a style which your income does not warrant. You know what
people will say under the circumstances. Either you must take Lillian to
live on your small income, which is not fair to her, or you must live on
her large one, which is not fair to you. I speak to a man of
honour, remember."

"These arguments are sophistical."

"Not at all. You can't escape from facts."

"Then is this miserable money to stand between us?" asked Dan in despair,
for he could not deny that there was great truth in what Sir John said.

The baronet shrugged his shoulders. "It seems likely unless you can make a
fortune equal to Lillian's."

"Why not? Aviation is yet in its infancy."

"Quite so, and thus accidents are continually happening. If you marry my
niece, it is probable that you will shortly leave her a widow. No! No!
In whatever way you look at the matter, Mr. Halliday, the match is most
undesirable. Be a man--a man of honour--and give Lillian up."

"To be miserable with Lord Curberry," said Dan fiercely, "never!" And he
meant what he said, as Sir John saw very plainly.

This being the case the baronet used another argument to obtain what he
wanted. "I have been young myself, and I know how you feel," he said
quietly. "Very good. I suggest a compromise."

"What is it?" muttered Dan dropping into his chair again and looking very
miserable, as was natural, seeing what he stood to lose.

"My poor brother," went on Sir John smoothly, and crossing his legs, "has
been struck down when most enjoying life. The person who murdered him
--presumably the woman who called herself Mrs. Brown--has not yet been
discovered in spite of the efforts of the police backed by a substantial
reward. I propose, Mr. Halliday, that you search for this person, the
period of searching to be limited to one year. If you find her and she is
punished, then you shall marry Lillian; if you fail, then you must stand
aside and allow her to marry Lord Curberry."

"You forget," said Dan, not jumping at the chance as Sir John expected,
"if I do bring the woman to justice, your arguments regarding my living on
Lillian remain in full force."

"Oh, as to that, Mr. Halliday, when the time comes, I can find arguments
equally strong on the other side. To use one now, if you revenge my
brother's death, no one will deny but what you have every right to marry
his daughter and enjoy her income. That would be only fair. Well?"

"Well," echoed Dan dully, and reflected with his sad eyes on the carpet.
Then he looked up anxiously. "Meanwhile, Lillian may marry Lord Curberry."

"Oh," said Sir John, coolly, "if you can't trust her--"

"He can trust her," cried the voice of the girl, herself, and the curtain
of the folding doors was drawn quickly aside.

"Lillian!" cried Dan, springing to his feet and opening his arms.

Sir John saw his niece rush into those same arms and laughed. "H'm!" said
he whimsically. "I quite forgot that the folding-doors into the next room
were open. You have been listening."

Lillian twisted herself in Dan's arms, but did not leave them, as she felt
safe within that warm embrace.

"Of course I have been listening," she cried scornfully; "as soon as I
knew Dan was in the house, and in the library, I listened. I told Bolly
that I was coming down to listen, and though she tried to prevent me, I
came. Who has a better right to listen when all the conversation was about
me, and remember, I should have seen him first?"

"Well," said her uncle unmoved, "it's no use arguing with you. A man's
idea of honour and a woman's are quite opposed to one another. You heard.
What have you to say?"

"I think you're horrid," snapped Lillian, in a school-girl manner; "as if
my money mattered. I am quite willing to give it to you and marry Dan on
what he has. It's better to love in a garret than to hate in a
drawing-room."

"Quite epigrammatic," murmured Sir John cynically. "Well, my dear, I am
much obliged to you for your fifty thousand a year offer, but I fancy what
I have is enough for me. I never did care for millions, and always
wondered why my late brother should wear himself out in obtaining them.
I decline."

"Whether you decline or not, I marry Dan," said Lillian hotly.

"What does Dan say?"

The young man disengaged himself. He had kept silent during the passage of
arms between uncle and niece. "I say that I can trust Lillian to remain
true to me for twelve months."

"For ever, for ever, for ever!" cried the girl, her face flaming and her
eyes flashing; "but don't make any promise of letting our marriage depend
upon finding the woman who murdered my poor father."

"Ah," said Sir John contemptuously, "you never loved your father, I see."

"How dare you say that?" flashed out the girl, panting with anger.

"My dear, ask yourself," replied Moon patiently; "your father has been
basely murdered. Yet you do not wish to avenge his death and prefer your
own happiness to the fulfilment of a solemn duty. Of course," added Sir
John, with a shrug, for he now knew what line of argument to take, "you
can't trust yourself to be faithful for twelve months and--"

"I can trust myself to be faithful, and for twelve centuries, if
necessary."

"No, no, no!" smiled Moon, shaking his head. "You prefer pleasure to duty.
I see you love yourself more than you loved your father. Well," he rose
and waved his hands with a gesture of dismissal, "go your way, my dear,
and marry Dan--you observe I call you 'Dan', Mr. Halliday, since you are
to become my nephew straight away. When is the wedding to be?"

"You consent?" cried Lillian, opening her eyes widely.

"I can't stop you," said Moon, still continuing his crafty diplomacy.
"You will soon be of age and you can buy your husband at once, since you
dare not risk a probation of twelve months."

"I can risk twelve years," retorted Lillian uneasily, for in a flash she
understood how selfishly she was behaving, seeing that her father's
assassin was still at large, "and to prove it--" She looked at Dan.

He understood and spoke, although he had already made up his mind as to
the best course to pursue. "To prove it," he said steadily, "we accept
your proposal, Sir John. Lillian will wait twelve months, and during that
time I shall search for the woman who murdered Sir Charles. If I don't
find her--"

"Lillian marries Lord Curberry," said Moon quickly.

"No," cried the girl defiantly; "that part of the agreement I decline to
assent to. Twelve months or twelve years it may take before the truth
comes to light, but I marry no one but Dan."

Sir John reflected on the dangers of aviation and swiftly came to a
conclusion. "We'll see at the end of the year," he said cautiously, "much
may happen in that time."

"So long as Lillian's wedding to Curberry doesn't happen," said Dan
obstinately, "I don't care. But it is understood that Lillian is not to be
worried about the matter?"

"That depends upon what you and Lillian call worry," said Moon drily; "so
far as I am concerned I shall not coerce her in any way. All I wish for is
the promise of you both that you will wait twelve months before taking any
steps to marry. Meantime, you must not see too much of Lillian."

"Oh," cried the girl, indignantly, "you would push Dan out of my life!"

"It's a test," explained Sir John, blinking nervously. "You will be in
mourning for the next twelve months, and should see few people."

"Of whom Dan will be one," she flashed out.

"Occasionally--very occasionally, you can see him. But, of course, if you
can't trust yourself to be true without being continually reminded that
Mr. Halliday exists, there is no more to be said."

"I can trust myself," muttered the girl uneasily.

"And I can trust Lillian," said Dan promptly and decisively.

"It does not look like it since you always wish to see one another.
And remember, Lillian, you owe it to your father's memory to put all
thoughts of love, which is self, out of your heart until the mystery of
his death is entirely solved."

"There is something in that," said Halliday thoughtfully, and Lillian
nodded; "but of course I can write to Lillian."

"Occasionally," said the baronet again; "you must both be tested by a
year's separation, with a meeting or a letter every now and then.
Duty must be the keynote of the twelve months and not pleasure. Well?"

The lovers looked at one another and sighed. The terms were hard, but not
so hard as Sir John might have made them. Still both the boy and the girl
--they were little else--recognised that their duty was to the dead.
Afterwards pleasure would be theirs. Silently they accepted and silently
adjusted to the situation. "We agree!" said the two almost simultaneously.

"Very good," said Moon, rubbing his hands, "how do you intend to begin
your search for the missing woman, Mr. Halliday?"

"I don't know," murmured Dan, miserably.

"Neither do I," rejoined Sir John with great amiability. "Come to tea?"

And to tea the lovers went as to a funeral feast. But Sir John rejoiced.



Chapter IV. AN AMATEUR DETECTIVE

Dan left the Mayfair house very mournfully, feeling that Sir John was
indeed master of the situation. By a skilful appeal to the generous
emotions of youth, to the boy's honour and to the girl's affections, he
had procured a respite of twelve months, during which time the lovers
could do nothing, bound as they were by silken threads. This would give
Curberry time to push his suit, and there was always a chance that Dan
would come to grief in one of his aerial trips in which case Lillian would
certainly be driven to marry her titled swain. Halliday knew nothing of
Moon's reckoning on these points, or he would have only accepted the
situation on condition that Curberry was not to meet or write to the girl
oftener than himself. Logically speaking, the peer and the commoner should
have been placed on the same footing. But Dan's grief at the parting
confused his understanding, and he had not been clever enough to seize his
opportunity. Therefore Sir John, winning all along the line, had cleared
the path for Curberry, and had more or less blocked it for Dan.
But, as yet, the young man did not grasp the full extent of Sir John's
worldly wisdom.

What Halliday had to do--and this dominated his mind immediately he left
the house--was to solve the mystery of Sir Charles's death. The sooner he
captured the false Mrs. Brown, who, presumably, had murdered the old man,
the sooner would he lead Lillian to the altar. Therefore he was feverishly
anxious to begin, but for the life of him he did not see how to make a
start. He had absolutely no experience of what constituted the business of
a detective, and was daunted at the outset by the difficulties of the
path. All the same he never thought of halting, but pressed forward
without a pause. And the first step he took was to consult a friend, on
the obvious assumption that two heads are better than one.

It was Freddy Laurance whom he decided to interview, since that very
up-to-date young journalist knew everyone of any note, and almost
everything of interest, being, indeed, aware of much of which the ordinary
man in the street was ignorant. He and Dan had been to Oxford together,
and for many years had been the best of friends. Laurance had been brought
up in the expectation of being a rich man. But over-speculation ruined his
father, and on leaving the university he was thrown unprepared on the
world to make his money as best he could, without any sort of training in
particular. Hearty praise from an expert for three or four newspaper
articles suggested journalism, and having an observant eye and a ready
pen, the young man was successful from the beginning. For a time he was a
free-lance, writing indiscriminately for this journal and for that, until
the proprietor of "The Moment", a halfpenny daily, secured his exclusive
services at a salary which procured Freddy the luxuries of life. This was
something to have achieved at the age of five and twenty.

"The Moment" was a bright shoot-folly-as-it-flies sort of journal, which
detailed the news of the day in epigrammatic scraps. Its longest articles
did not exceed a quarter of a column, and important events were usually
restricted to paragraphs. It, indeed, skimmed the cream of events, and ten
minutes' study of its sheets gave a busy man all the information he
required concerning the doings of humanity. Also it daily published an
extra sheet concerned entirely with letters from the public to the public,
and many of these were prolix, as the paragraph rule did not apply to this
portion of the journal. People wrote herein on this, that, and the other
thing, ventilating their ideas and suggesting schemes. And as many wrote
many bought, so that friends and relatives might read their letters,
therefore vanity gave "The Moment" quite a large circulation independent
of its orthodox issue. The proprietor made money in two ways; by supplying
gossip for curious people, and by giving vain persons the chance of seeing
themselves in print. Seeing what human nature is, it is scarcely to be
wondered at that "The Moment" was a great success, and sold largely in
town and country.

Freddy's post was that of a roving correspondent. Whenever any event of
interest took place in any of the four corners of the globe, Laurance went
to take notes on the spot, and his information was boiled down into
concise illuminative paragraphs. Indeed, the older journalists said that
it was hardly worth while for him to make such long journeys for the sake
of condensed-milk news; but, as Freddy's details were always amusing as
well as abrupt, the editor and the public and the proprietor were
satisfied. A man who can flash a vivid picture into the dullest mind in
few words is well worth money. Therefore was Laurance greatly appreciated.

Dan walked to a grimy lane leading from Fleet Street with some doubt in
his puzzled mind as to whether Freddy would be in his office. At a
moment's notice the man would dart off to the ends of the earth, and was
more or less on the move through the three hundred and sixty-five days of
the year. But, of late, sensational events had concentrated themselves in
England, so Dan hoped that his friend would be on the spot. An inquiry
from the gorgeous individual who guarded the entrance to the red brick
building wherein "The Moment" was printed and published and composed,
revealed that Mr. Laurance was not only in London, but in his office at
the very second, so Dan sent up his name, and rejoiced at the catching of
this carrier-pigeon. And it was a good omen also that Freddy saw him
straight away, since he generally refused himself to every one on the plea
of business.

"But I couldn't resist seeing you, Dan," remarked Mr. Laurance, when he
had shaken hands, before supplying his visitor with a cigarette and a
chair. "I was coming to see you, if the mountain hadn't come to Mahomet!"

Dan lighted up, and through the smoke of tobacco stared inquisitively at
his friend, wondering what this introductory remark meant. Laurance was
rather like Dan in personal appearance, being tall and slim and
clean-shaven, with Greek features and an aristocratic look. But he was
decidedly fair, as Halliday was decidedly dark, and his eyes were less
like those of an eagle than the eyes of the aviator. But then Laurance was
not accustomed to the boundless spaces of the air, although he had twice
ascended in an airship; therefore the new expression of the new race was
wanting. Nevertheless, he looked a capable, alert young man, able to get
the full value out of every minute. He was an admirable type of the
restless, present-day seeker.

"Well, Mahomet," said Dan, leisurely, "here's the mountain. What have you
to say to it?"

"That murder of Sir Charles Moon."

Halliday quivered with surprise. It was so amazing that Laurance should
hit upon the very subject which employed his own thoughts. "Yes?" he
enquired.

"You are engaged to Miss Moon; you were in the house when the crime was
committed; you saw the body; you--"

"Stop! Stop! I was not in the house when the crime was committed.
I returned there from the theatre some time later--in fact about midnight.
I certainly did see the body. As to being engaged to Miss Moon--h'm!
I came to see you about that, Freddy."

"The deuce you did. Great minds jump. What?" Laurance puffed a blue cloud,
sat down astride a chair and leaned his arms on the back. "Strange!"

"That you and I should be on the hunt? Well it is."

"On the hunt!" echoed Laurance, staring. "What do you mean?"

"I should rather ask that question of you," said Dan drily. "Sir Charles
is dead and buried these many weeks, and the woman who assassinated him
can't be found, in spite of the reward and the efforts of the police.
Why, at this late hour, do you wish to rake up stale news? I thought that
'The Moment' was more up-to-date."

"It will be very much up-to-date when the next murder is committed,"
observed Laurance, grimly and significantly.

The legs of Dan's chair grated, as he pushed it back in sheer surprise.
"What do you mean by the next murder?" he demanded sharply.

"Well, this gang--"

"Gang! gang! Who says there is a gang?" and Dan's thought flew back to
Durwin's reason for visiting Sir Charles.

"Humph!" growled Laurance, thrusting his hands into his pockets.
"I'm disappointed. I thought you knew more."

"I know a good deal," retorted the other quickly, "but I don't intend to
talk to you about what I know until I learn your game."

"What about your own?"

"That comes later also," said Halliday promptly. "Go on! I want to know
why you rake up Moon's murder."

"Naturally you do, seeing you are engaged to the daughter."

"Am I? I am not quite sure. She loves me and I love her, but the new
baronet wants her to marry Lord Curberry. She refused, and I kicked up a
row some hours back. Result, we are on probation for one year, during
which time I am to discover the assassin of Sir Charles."

"And if you don't?"

"Time enough to talk about that when I fail," said Halliday coolly;
"at least I have twelve months to hunt round. I came for your help, but it
seems that you want mine. Why?"

Freddy, through sheer absence of mind, flung away a half-smoked cigarette
and lighted another. Then he rose and strolled across the room to lean his
shoulders against the mantelpiece. "We can help one another, I think," was
his final observation.

"I hope so. In any case I intend to marry Lillian. All the same to pacify
Sir John, I am willing to become a detective. You know my game. Yours?"

"Listen," said Laurance vivaciously. "I forgot all about the murder, since
there seemed to be no chance of the truth coming to light, and so did
everyone else for the same reason. But a few nights ago I was dining out,
and met a chap called Durwin--"

"Scotland Yard man," interrupted Dan, nodding several times. "He came to
see Sir Charles on business and found the corpse."

"Just so. Well, after dinner we had a chat, and he told me that he was
anxious to learn who killed Moon, because he didn't want any more murders
of the kind to happen--as a police official, you understand."

"Strange he should be confidential on that point," murmured Halliday
thoughtfully, "seeing that he wished his theory regarding a possible gang
kept quiet, in the hope of making discoveries."

"He has changed his mind about secrecy, and so has Tenson," said Freddy.

"Oh!" Dan raised his eyebrows. "The Inspector. You have seen him also?"

Laurance nodded. "After I questioned Durwin, and learned what he had to
say I saw Tenson and interviewed him. They told me about the fly on the
neck, and remembering the case of the purple fern, and having regard to
the fact that the fly in question was artificial, both men are inclined to
believe in the existence of a gang, whose trade-mark the said fly is."

Dan nodded again. "Quite so; and then Durwin came to see Moon and hear
about the gang. He found him dead."

"So you said; so Durwin said," rejoined Laurance quietly. "It seems very
certain, putting this and that together, that Sir Charles became dangerous
to this gang, whatever it is and wherever it exists, so was put to death
by the false Mrs. Brown, who came expressly to kill him."

"So far I am with you on all fours," said Halliday. "Well?"

"Well, both Durwin and Tenson, dreading lest the gang may commit another
crime, wish me to make the matter as public as I can, so as to frighten
the beasts."

"H'm!" said Dan, looking at his neat brown boots. "They have changed their
minds, it seems. Their first idea was to keep the matter quiet, so as to
catch these devils red-handed. However, publicity may be a good thing.
How do you intend to begin?"

"I have got facts from Tenson and from Durwin," said Freddy promptly; "and
now, since you saw the body and found the fly, I want to get the facts
from you. On what I acquire I shall write a letter in that extra sheet of
ours, and you can be pretty certain from what you know of human nature
that any amount of people will reply to my letter."

"They may reply to no purpose."

"I'm not so sure of that, Dan. If I mention the fly as a trade-mark and
recall the strange case of the purple fern, some one may write about
matters known to themselves from positive knowledge. If this gang exists,
it has committed more murders than one, but the fly being a small insect
may not have been noticed so easily as the trade-mark in the other crimes.
I wonder you spotted it, anyhow."

"It was easily seen, being on the back of the neck near the wound.
Besides, flies in November--the month of the murder--are rare.
Finally Tenson discovered the fly to be artificial, which shows that it
was purposely placed on the dead man's neck, near the wound. H'm!" he
reflected, "perhaps someone may know of some crime with the fly
trade-mark, and in that case we can be certain that such a gang does
exist."

"So I think," cried Laurance quickly, "and for that reason I intend to
start a discussion by writing an open letter. Publicity may frighten these
beasts into dropping their trade; on the other hand, it may goad the gang
into asserting itself. In either case the subject will be ventilated, and
we may learn more or less of the truth."

"Yes. I think it's a good idea, Freddy. And the perfume? Did Durwin or the
Inspector tell you anything about the perfume? No, I can see by your blank
stare that they didn't. Listen, Freddy, and store this knowledge in your
blessed brain, my son. It is a clue, I am sure," and Halliday forthwith
related to his attentive listener details concerning the strange perfume
which had impregnated the clothes of the dead man. "And Sir Charles hated
perfumes," he ended, emphatically; "he didn't even like Lillian or Mrs.
Bolstreath to use them, and they obeyed him."

"Curious," mused the journalist, and idly scribbling on his
blotting-paper; he was back at his desk by this time. "What sort of scent
is it?"

"My dear chap, you ask me to describe the impossible," retorted Dan, with
uplifted eyebrows. "How the deuce can I get the kind of smell into your
head? It must be smelt to be understood. All I can say is that the perfume
was rich and heavy, suggestive of drowsiness. Indeed, I used that word,
and Tenson thought of some kind of chloroform used, perhaps, to stupefy
the victim before killing him. But there was no odour about the mouth
or nose."

"On the handkerchief, perhaps?" suggested the reporter.

"No. Tenson smelt the handkerchief."

"Well, if this Mrs. Brown used this perfume, you and Miss Moon and Mrs.
Bolstreath must have smelt it on her in the hall. I understand from Durwin
that you all three saw the woman."

"Yes. And Lillian, poor girl, persuaded her father to see the wretch.
But we did not smell the perfume on the woman. Tenson or Durwin--I forget
which--asked us that question."

"Humph!" said Laurance, after a pause; "it may be a kind of trade-mark,
like the fly business." He took a note. "I shall use this evidence in my
letter to the public. I suppose, Dan, you would recognise the
scent again?"

"Oh, yes! I have a keen sense of smell, you know. But I don't expect I
shall ever drop across this particular fragrance, Freddy."

"There's always Monsieur Chance, you know," remarked Laurance, tapping his
white teeth with a pencil. "Perhaps the gang use this scent so as to
identify one another--in the dark it may be--like cats. How does that
strike you?"

"As purely theoretical," said Dan, with a shrug, and reached for another
cigarette; "it's a case of perhaps, and perhaps not."

Laurance assented. "But everything so far is theoretical in this case," he
argued; "you have told me all you know?"

"Every bit, even to my year of probation. Do you know Curberry?"

"Yes. He was a slap-up barrister. A pity he got title and money, as he has
left the Bar, and is a good man spoiled. Lucky chap all the same, as his
uncle and cousin both died unexpectedly, to give him his chance of the
House of Lords."

"How did they die?"

"Motor accident. Car went over a cliff. Only the chauffeur was saved, and
he broke both legs. Do you know the present Lord Curberry?"

"I have seen him, and think he's a dried-up, cruel-looking beast," said
Dan, with considerable frankness. "I'd rather see Lillian dead than
his wife."

"Hear, hear!" applauded Laurance, smiling. "The girl's too delightful to
be wasted on Curberry. You have my blessing on the match, Dan."

"Thanks," said Dan ruefully, "but I have to bring it off first. Sir John's
infernally clever, and managed to get both Lillian and I to consent to let
matters stand over for a year, during which time I guess he'll push
Curberry's suit. But I can trust Lillian to be true to me, bless her! and
Mrs. Bolstreath is quite on our side. After all," murmured the young man
disconsolately, "it's only fair that Sir Charles should be avenged.
Perhaps it would be selfish for Lillian and I to marry and live happy ever
afterwards, without making some attempt to square things. The question is
how to start. I'm hanged if I know, and so I came to you."

"Well," said Laurance thoughtfully, "there's a hope of Monsieur Chance,
you know. In many ways you may stumble on clues even without looking for
them, since this gang--if it exists--must carry on an extensive business.
All you can do, Dan, is to keep your eyes and ears and nose open--the last
for that scent, you know. On my part I shall write the letter, and publish
it in the annex of 'The Moment'. Then we shall see what will happen."

"Yes, I think that's about the best way to begin. Stir up the muddy water,
and we may find what is at the bottom of the pond. But there's one thing
to be considered, and that is money. If I'm going to hunt for these
scoundrels I need cash, and to own up, Freddy, I haven't very much."

"You're so beastly extravagant," said Laurance grinning, "and your private
income goes nowhere."

"Huh! what's five hundred a year?"

"Ten pounds a week, more or less. However, there's your aviation. I hear
that you take people on flights for money?"

Dan nodded. "It's the latest fashionable folly, which is a good thing for
me, old son. I get pretty well paid, and it means fun."

"With some risk of death," said Laurance drily.

"Well, yes. But that is a peculiarity of present-day fun. People love to
play with death--it thrills them. However, if I am to hunt for the
assassin of Sir Charles, I can't give much attention to aviation, and I
repeat that I want money. Oceans of it."

"Would two thousand pounds suit you?"

"Rather. Only I'm not going to borrow from you, old man, thank you."

"I haven't that amount to lend," said Freddy, drily; "but you must have
seen, if you read our very interesting paper, that our proprietor has
offered a prize of two thousand pounds for a successful flight from London
to York."

"A kind of up-to-date Dick Turpin, I suppose," laughed Dan, rising and
stretching his long limbs. "Good, I'll have a shot; I may win."

"You will, if you use a Vincent machine."

"Vincent, Vincent? Where have I heard that name?"

"Everywhere, if you knew anything of the aviation world," snapped Laurance
rather crossly, for at times Dan's indolence in acquiring necessary
information annoyed him. "Solomon Vincent, who has been inventing airships
and new-fangled aeroplanes for ever so long."

"Yes, yes! I remember now. He's a genius. Everyone knows him."

"Everyone knows of him, except yourself; but no one knows him personally.
He lives a secluded life up in Hillshire, on the borders of the moors,
where he can find wide space for his experiments in aerial craft.
I interviewed him a year ago, and--and--" Laurance blushed red.

"Hullo, what's this?" asked Dan shrewdly. "Can it be that the inventor has
a daughter fair?"

"A niece," retorted Laurance, recovering; "why shouldn't I be in love as
well as you, Halliday? However, that doesn't matter."

"It matters a great deal to you."

"Never mind. What you have to do is to secure one of Vincent's machines
and try for this race. If you win the prize you will have heaps of money
to search for the gang. But why doesn't Miss Moon--"

"I don't take Lillian's money," said Dan curtly, and blushed in his turn.
"It is a good idea, Freddy. How can I get hold of the machine?"

"I shall take you up to Hillshire next week, and you can see Vincent for
yourself. He can talk to you, and--"

"And you can talk to the niece. What's her name?"

"Oh, shut up and get out!" said Laurance, turning away, "you're
interrupting my work."

"Going to write a letter to the beloved," said Dan, leisurely making for
the door. "All right, old son, I'll go! You know my address, so write me
when you want me. I'd like to see Vincent's machines, as I hear he has
made several good improvements, and everything tells in a race. Salaam!"

"Keep your eyes open," Laurance called after him; "remember Monsieur
Chance may prove to be our best friend."

Dan departed, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't believe in heaven-sent
miracles," were his last words. But they were wasted on Freddy, for that
alert young man was already buried in his work. It was painful to witness
such industry, in Halliday's opinion.

In an inquiring frame of mind, the amateur detective strolled along Fleet
Street, thinking of Lillian instead of keeping his wits about him, as
Freddy had requested. It seemed impossible that he should strike on a clue
without deliberately searching for it, which he did not feel inclined to
do at the moment. Monsieur Chance, indeed! He was a mythical personage in
whom this sceptical young man did not believe. Besides, love dominated his
thoughts to the exclusion of minor matters, and he dreamed about his
darling all along the Strand. Thus he did not look where he was going, and
stumbled into the midst of a Charing Cross crowd, where a motor had broken
down after colliding with a 'bus. A policeman was conversing with the
chauffeur and the 'bus driver, who were conversing abusively with one
another. The crowd blocked the street and stopped the traffic in order to
enjoy the conversation, which left nothing to be desired in the way of
free language. Dan halted idly as a spectator, not because he wished to be
one, but for the very simple reason that he could not get through the
crowd into Trafalgar Square.

Thrust up against one man, and wedged in by two others, and surrounded by
hundreds, he grumbled at the delay, and peered over shoulders to see when
the incident would end. As he did so, he suddenly in his mind's eye saw a
vision of Sir Charles lying dead in the well-lighted library.
While wondering why he thought of the crime at this particular moment, he
became aware that a familiar scent assailed his nostrils, the scent about
which he had talked to Durwin and Tenson and Laurance. Nosing like a
hound, he tried to find the person from whom it emanated, and almost
immediately fixed on a spectator at his elbow. A moment later the man
turned, and Dan found himself face to face with Marcus Penn.



Chapter V. MUDDY WATER

The secretary of the late Sir Charles Moon smiled irresolutely when he
recognised Dan. That young gentleman, who thought Penn a weak-kneed idiot,
had never taken much notice of him, and but for the fact that he was
perfumed with the unusual scent would not have spoken to him now. But as
he looked at the lank creature with his yellow face, and scanty moustache,
he guessed that he was exactly the effeminate sort of person who would use
perfume. What he wished to know was why he affected this particular kind
of fragrance, and whence he obtained it. To gain the information he
pretended a friendliness for the man he was far from feeling. Dan, strong,
virile, and self-confident, was not altogether just to Penn, who was not
responsible for his pallid looks and weak character. But Halliday was not
a perfect individual by any means, and had yet to learn that the weak are
meant to be protected and helped instead of being despised.

"You here, Mr. Penn?" said Dan, thus formal to mark the difference
between them.

"Yes," replied the man in his faint, hesitating voice, and, as they moved
out of the crowd, Halliday smelt the weird perfume more strongly than ever
shaken from Penn's clothes by his movements. "I stopped to look at the
accident."

"A very ordinary one," rejoined Halliday, with a shrug. "By the way, I
have not seen you since the funeral of Sir Charles. What are you doing
now, if I may ask?"

"I am secretary to Lord Curberry."

"Oh!" The reply gave Dan something of a shock, for he did not expect at
the moment to hear his rival's name. But then the whole incident of
meeting Penn and smelling the incriminating perfume was strange.
Monsieur Chance had proved himself to be an actuality instead of the
mythical personage Dan had believed him to be. It was certainly odd that
the meeting had taken place, and odder still that Penn should prove to be
the servant of Curberry.

As Halliday said nothing more than "Oh!" the other man stroked his
moustache and explained. "Sir John got me the post, Mr. Halliday," he said
with his shifty eyes anywhere but on Dan's inquiring face. "I was quite
stranded after Sir Charles's unexpected death, and did not know where to
turn for employment. As I support a widowed mother, the situation was
rather serious, so I took my courage in my hands and went to Sir John.
He was good enough to recommend me to Lord Curberry, and I have been with
his lordship for a month, more or less."

"I congratulate you, Mr. Penn, and Lord Curberry also. Sir Charles always
said you were an excellent secretary." Dan stopped as Penn bowed his
acknowledgements to the compliment, and cast a keen side glance at the
man. They were walking through Trafalgar Square by this time; passing
under the shadow of Nelson's Column. "Do you know what I was thinking of
when behind you in the crowd yonder, Mr. Penn?" he asked abruptly, and it
must be confessed rather undiplomatically, if he wished to get at
the truth.

"No," said the secretary, with simplicity and manifest surprise. "No, Mr.
Halliday, how can I guess your thoughts?"

"I was thinking of the murder of your late employer," said Dan straightly.

Penn blinked and shivered. "It's a horrible subject to think about," he
remarked in a low voice. "I can scarcely get it out of my own thoughts.
I suppose the sight of me reminded you of the crime, Mr. Halliday?"

"Scarcely, since I was behind you and did not recognise you until you
turned," replied Dan, calmly, and the other appeared to be surprised.

"Then how--" he began, only to be cut short.

"It's that scent."

"Scent!" echoed Penn nervously but manifestly still surprised. "I don't
understand what you mean, Mr. Halliday. I like scent, and use much of it."

Dan's lip curled. "So I perceive. But where did you get the particular
scent you are using now, may I ask?"

Something in his tone annoyed the secretary, for he drew himself up and
halted. "I don't know why you should criticise my tastes, Mr. Halliday."

"I'm not criticising them, and don't jump down my throat. But you reek of
some strange perfume, which I last smelt--" He paused.

"You cannot have smelt it anywhere," said Penn indifferently.

"What do you mean by that exactly?" asked Dan with considerable sharpness.

Penn resumed his walk and drew his light eyebrows together. "I am willing
to explain as soon as you tell me why you speak of the scent."

"Hang it, man!" rejoined Halliday, dropping into step, "any one would
notice the scent and speak of it since it is so strong."

"Oh"--Penn's brow cleared--"I understand now. You have taken a fancy to
the scent and wish me to get you some."

Halliday was about to make an indignant denial, when he suddenly changed
his mind, seeing a chance of learning something. "Well, can you get
me some?"

"No," said Penn coolly; "I cannot. This is a particular perfume which
comes from the Island of Sumatra. I have a cousin there who knows that I
like perfumes, and he sent me a single bottle."

"Can't I buy it anywhere?"

"No, it is not to be obtained in England," said Penn curtly.

"In that case," said Halliday slowly, "it is strange that I should have
smelt the same perfume on the clothes of Sir Charles after his death."

"Did you?" Penn looked surprised. "That is impossible. Why, Sir Charles
detested scents, and I never dared to use this one until I left him for
the night."

"You used it on the night of the murder?"

"Of course. I used it every night when I left Sir Charles. On that evening
he sent me away with my usual batch of letters, and was going down to the
House later. I would not have seen him until the next morning, so I took
the opportunity to indulge in this taste."

"Then how did Sir Charles's clothes become impregnated with it?"

"I am unable to say. Why do you ask? Surely"--Penn turned an alarmed face
towards the speaker, and looked yellower than ever--"surely you do not
suspect me of keeping back anything from the police likely to lead to the
detection of the assassin."

"Ask yourself, Mr. Penn," said Dan coldly. "I and Inspector Tenson and Mr.
Durwin smelt this particular perfume on the clothes of the dead man, and I
do not mind telling you that the police consider it to be something of
a clue."

"A clue to what? To me? It must be, since I alone possess this scent. I
certainly came into the library when summoned by Mr. Durwin, and I helped
to look after Sir Charles. As I was strongly perfumed with the scent it is
not impossible that my employer's clothes took what, doubtless, you will
call the taint. I think," ended Penn in a dignified manner, "that such is
the proper explanation. You have found a mare's nest, Mr. Halliday."

"Upon my word, I believe I have," said Dan, quite good-humouredly, "but
you must forgive me, Mr. Penn. Inspector Tenson agreed with me that the
fly and the scent were clues."

"About the fly I know nothing," said the secretary positively, "but this
scent is not to be had in England, and Sir Charles's clothes could only
have gathered the fragrance from mine. If Inspector Tenson suspects me--"

"No, no, no!" interrrupted Halliday quickly. "I assure you that he
does not."

"He would if you told him of our meeting," retorted Penn as they passed
into Piccadilly Circus, "and as I don't like even a suspicion to rest on
me, Mr. Halliday--for my good name is my fortune--I shall go and see him
and explain the whole circumstance. Indeed, if he wishes it, I shall give
him the bottle which my cousin posted to me from Sumatra, and never shall
I use the scent again. I do not like these injurious suspicions."

"Don't make a mountain out of a mole-hill," said Dan, drily; "if I have
hurt your feelings, I apologise."

"I accept your apology only on condition that you accept my explanation."

Dan inwardly chuckled at Penn's dignity, but replied readily enough.
"Oh, yes, for if I did not accept your explanation I should not make any
apology. You are probably right since the scent must have got on to Sir
Charles's clothes from your own. The clue--as we took it to be--has ended
in smoke."

"But don't you think that I should see Inspector Tenson and explain?"

"There is no need," Dan assured him, soothingly. "If the Inspector says
anything about the scent, I shall explain; and, after all, it was I who
suggested the perfume as a clue."

"Would you like what is left of the bottle?" asked Penn, pacified by the
very frank apology of the other.

"No, thanks, I never use perfumes. I hate them."

"So did Sir Charles," mused Penn, and eyeing Dan with a lack-lustre gaze.
"I wonder he did not suspect me of liking them. If he had come upon me
scented in this manner, he would have kicked me out."

"It is to be hoped Lord Curberry has not the same dislike," said Dan, who
having learned all he wished, desired to escape from such boring society.

"No, he has not," said Penn with great simplicity; "he is very kind to me.
I suppose he will marry Miss Moon."

"Then you suppose wrong. He will not," snapped Halliday roughly.

"He loves her devotedly," insisted the secretary, and with a glint of
malice in his pale-coloured eyes.

"Good day," rejoined Dan shortly, as he did not wish to argue the matter.
He turned into Regent Street--for by this time they had crossed the
Circus--when Penn ran after him and seized his arm.

"Is there any chance of the woman who killed Sir Charles being found?"

"No," replied Dan, halting for a moment. "Why?"

"Because Sir Charles was good to me, and I should like his death to be
avenged. That is only natural. Surely the police will search."

"They are searching, Mr. Penn, and can discover nothing."

"Perhaps Lord Curberry may hunt for this woman. I shall ask him to, and as
he loves Miss Moon so devotedly, he will try and learn the truth."

Irritated by this speech--for Penn knew all about the rivalry--Dan became
scarlet. "I shall discover the truth. Lord Curberry need not
trouble himself."

"If you discover the truth--" began Penn, and hesitated.

"Well?" asked Halliday sharply.

"I think Lord Curberry will certainly marry Miss Moon."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Dan, but Penn gave no answer.
Shaking his head significantly, he stepped back, and in one moment was
lost in the midst of the crowd which thronged the corner. Halliday would
have followed, for the man's last observation seemed to hint that he knew
more about the truth than he was disposed to admit; but many people came
between him and the secretary, so it was impossible to get hold of him
again. Dan was forced to walk on alone and he walked on pondering deeply.

Did Penn know the truth? It seemed impossible that he should know it.
The evidence of the typewriting girl went to show that he had not left his
private room all the evening until summoned by Durwin when the death was
discovered. What Penn said about the perfume appeared to be reasonable
enough, as he certainly had handled the body, and if reeking of the scent
--as he was reeking on this very day--it was not surprising that the odour
should communicate itself to the dress clothes of the dead man.
Some odours cling very powerfully, and endure for a considerable time.
This Sumatra scent assuredly had done so, for it was quite three hours
after the death that Dan himself had seen the corpse, and even then he had
smelt the perfume. However, on the face of it, Halliday saw no reason to
doubt Penn's statement, and quite understood how he became, through Sir
John's mediation, the secretary of Lord Curberry. Only the last speech of
the secretary was strange. Why should he say that, if the truth were
discovered by Dan, Curberry would marry the girl, when, on the discovery
of the truth--so far as Dan could see--the marriage of himself to Lillian
depended? Dan could find no answer to this question, and had half a mind
to follow Penn to his new employer's house, so as to force an explanation.
But as he knew Curberry did not like him, he decided to let matters stand
as they were, and only reveal what he had heard to Laurance.

For the next four or five days, young Halliday went about his business in
a quiet, determined manner, and thought as little as possible of Lillian.
He did not even write or call to see her, since he wished to give up his
whole attention to discovering the truth about Moon's death. If he thought
of love and Lillian, he certainly could not concentrate his mind on the
necessary search. And such attention was very necessary, if he intended to
marry the girl. He became certain that in some way Sir John intended to
trick him, but if he found out the false Mrs. Brown, and solved the
mystery, Sir John would be forced out of sheer justice to sanction the
marriage. It was heroical of Halliday to turn his thoughts from his
beloved and it was no easy task to one so deeply in love as he was. But he
saw the need of it, and manfully set himself to endure present pain for
future joy. Whether Lillian saw things in the same light, or resented his
neglect, he did not know, as he had no word from her; neither came there
any letter from Mrs. Bolstreath. Dan had certainly been pushed out of the
girl's life by her astute uncle; but it was his own common sense that kept
him out of it; for the time being--be it understood. Love demands its
martyrs and Halliday had become one for Love's sake. By doing so, although
he knew it not, he was displaying more real love towards her than he had
ever done in his life before.

Meanwhile, Laurance lost no time in publishing his letter, which dealt
with the mystery of Moon's death. As "The Moment", including its extra
letter-writing sheet, had a large circulation, and as it was a season
devoid of news, the letter caused great discussions. It was sufficiently
alarming to those who loved law and order, since it boldly announced that
a gang of criminals existed which coldly and cautiously and deliberately
employed its members to put people to death. The letter called attention
to the fly--and that an artificial one--on Sir Charles's neck near the
poisoned wound, and declared that such was the sign-manual of the accursed
society. No mention was made of the scent, since Dan had explained what
Penn had said to Laurance, and Laurance had accepted the explanation as
valid. But there was quite enough in the letter to startle the most dull,
especially when the writer called attention to the happening of various
mysterious murders, and suggested that such were the work of this
misguided set of people who constituted the unknown gang. Finally, Freddy
ended his letter by saying that Moon had knowledge of the gang, and had
sent for a Scotland Yard official--name not given--to explain the whole
matter, when he met with his death. It was a fact, therefore, that the
false Mrs. Brown was an emissary of the gang who had been detailed to
murder Sir Charles and had performed her vile errand only too well.
A postscript to the epistle invited discussion, and particularly called
upon any person who knew of an artificial fly being found on a corpse to
give evidence.

In two days the sheet was filled with letters from various people, and the
matter was much discussed. Some of the writers laughed at the idea of such
a society existing in a civilised country such as England was, while
others expressed alarm and asked what the police were doing not to arrest
the criminals. These last scribes evidently entirely forgot that no one
knew where the central quarters of the gang were, and that the letter of
Mr. Laurance was an attempt to root out the heart of the mystery.
Those who appeared in print and aided the circulation of "The Moment" by
buying their own lucubrations certainly did not help much. The generality
of the letters were discursive and ornate, wandering very much from the
point, and giving no positive information such as would assist Freddy's
purpose. But three or four epistles drew attention to certain mysterious
crimes, the perpetrators of which had never been brought to justice, and
who were not even known. There was the case of a young girl found dead on
the Brighton railway line near Redhill, and who must have been thrown out
of the train. Then someone wrote about a miser in the East End who had
been strangled, and another person recalled the drowning of a well-known
philanthropist in the Serpentine. A verdict of suicide had been brought in
as regards this last victim, but the writer of the letter positively
asserted that the philanthropist had not the slightest intention of making
away with himself. Finally came a batch of letters concerning children who
had been murdered.

But only in one case did it appear that any fly was seen on the victim,
and that was when a schoolmistress was stabbed to the heart while in bed
and asleep. The assassin had entered and escaped by the window, and the
victim's mother--who wrote the letter drawing attention to this case--had
found the fly on her daughter's cheek. She had thought nothing of it at
the time, and had brushed away the insect. But after the mention of the
fly on Sir Charles Moon's neck, she remembered the incident.  Also it
turned out that the schoolmistress, had she lived, would have inherited a
large sum of money. It was this last circumstance that suggested the
intervention of the gang to murder the girl so that someone else might
inherit. But all the letters dealing with the various cases were vague,
and no enlightening details could be given. All that could be said was
that there were many unusual deaths, the mystery of which could not be
solved. Laurance, reading the letters during the week of their appearance,
felt sure that the gang existed, but he was more or less alone in his
opinion. Even Dan was doubtful.

"It seems such a large order for a number of people to band themselves
together in order to murder on this comprehensive scale," he objected;
"and I don't quite see the object. Many of the victims mentioned in these
letters are poor."

"You seem to have changed your mind about the matter," said Laurance
drily, "for when my letter appeared you were assured that there was such
a gang."

"Only because of Sir Charles's remarks to Durwin."

"It was a pity Sir Charles was not more explicit," retorted Freddy crossly.

"He had no time to be explicit," said Dan, patiently, "since he died
before he could explain. But let us admit, for the sake of argument, that
such a gang exists. Why should the members murder poor people?"

"Folks have been murdered by way of revenge, as well as for money. And let
me remind you, Dan, that four or five of these victims mentioned in the
letters had money, or were about to inherit money. I am quite convinced,"
said Laurance, striking the table, "that there is such an association."

"An association for what?"

"You are very dull. To get undesirable people out of the way. Remember, in
the reign of Louis XIV, there were dozens of poisoners in Paris who
undertook to kill people when engaged to do so. The reason was for
revenge, or desire for money, or--or--or for other reasons," ended
Laurance vaguely.

"Hum!" Dan stroked his chin, "it may be as you say. Certainly Sir Charles
was got rid of, because he knew too much."

"About this gang," insisted Laurance, "since he was to see Durwin about
the same. I am certain that such an association exists."

"You said that before," Halliday reminded him.

"And I say it again. At all events there is one thing certain--that we
have learned from these letters of many mysterious crimes."

"But only in one case was the fly discovered," objected Dan again.

"That is not to be wondered at," replied the journalist; "the wonder is
that such a small insect should be noticed at all. No one would ever think
of connecting a fly, whether dead or alive, with the death.  The mother of
the schoolmistress did not, until your experience with regard to Moon was
quoted in my letter. The fly business is quite ridiculous."

"And perhaps means nothing."

"Oh, I think it does, seeing that in Moon's case the fly was artificial.
Probably in the case of the schoolmistress it was artificial also, only
the mother who noticed it did not make an examination. Why should she?
I wonder the gang don't have a better trade-mark."

"Perhaps the gang may think it would be spotted if it did."

"Then why have any trade-mark at all," answered Laurance, sensibly.
"If there is to be a sign, there should be some sensible one. If the fly
was stamped on the skin, as the purple fern was stamped, there would be
some sense in the matter. But a fly, artificial or not, is--" Freddy
spread out his hands, for words entirely failed him.

"Well," said Dan after a pause, "I don't know what to say, since
everything is so vague. However, I shall assume that such a gang exists,
and shall do my best to help you to bring about its destruction, as that
means my marriage to Lillian. To help, I must have money, so the sooner we
get north and engage one of Vincent's machines with all the latest
improvements, the better shall I be pleased." He moved towards the door,
as they were in Laurance's rooms when this conversation took place, and
there he halted. "I think, Freddy, you will have a chance of proving in
your own person, as to the truth of your supposition regarding this gang!"

"What do you mean?" asked Laurance somewhat startled.

"Well," murmured Dan, "the gang know you started the hunt for its
destruction, as I expect the members read the papers. If that is the case
you will be a source of danger, such as Sir Charles was and--"

"I'll look after myself," interrupted Laurance grimly.

"Well, if you don't, and the worst comes," said Dan agreeably, "I shall
carefully examine your corpse for the celebrated fly."

"I'll look after myself," said Laurance again, "and if you think I am
going to give up doing business through fear of death, you are much
mistaken. If I can find the gang and exterminate them, I'll get a much
larger salary, and so will be able to marry Mildred."

"Oh, that's her name is it! Mildred Vincent! Is she pretty?"

"You might not think so since Miss Moon is your ideal," said Freddy, with
a blush. "Mildred is dark and tall, and well-proportioned--none of your
skimpy women, old man."

"Lillian isn't skimpy," cried Halliday indignantly.

"I never said she was. Let us call her fairy-like."

"That's better. And your Mildred?"

"You'll see her when we go north the day after to-morrow."

"Good!" Dan nodded thankfully, "we go to Vincent the day after to-morrow?"

"Yes. Meet me at a quarter to twelve at St. Pancras Station; the train
leaves at mid-day and we change for Beswick about four o'clock. I expect
we'll arrive--all going well--at Sheepeak about six."

"Good! But why shouldn't all go well?" inquired Dan, after a pause.

Laurance chuckled. "According to you, the gang will hunt me down, and as
you are in my company--well!" he chuckled again.

"Oh, I don't care a cent for the gang, no more than yourself," retorted
Dan with a shrug. "I'm not even going to think of the beasts. We go north
to get the machine which will enable me to win this two thousand.
And then--"

"And then?" echoed Laurance with a grin.

"Then I shall discover the truth, crush the gang, and marry Lillian."

In this way, therefore, the muddy water was stirred up.



Chapter VI. THE INVENTOR

Freddy Laurance usually opened his mouth to ask questions, rarely to talk
about himself. In the newspaper world, confidences may mean copy; given
that such are worthy to appear in print.  Therefore, as the young man
found, it is just as well to be sparing of personal details, and having
made this discovery, he was careful to keep his tongue between his teeth
in all matters dealing with his private life. This reticence, useful in
business but wholly unnecessary in friendship--particularly when the
friendship had to do with Dan Halliday--had grown upon Laurance to such an
extent that he said very little about his love affair. Dan, being a genial
soul, and a fellow-sufferer in the cause of Cupid, and having heart-whole
liking for the journalist, resented being shut out in this way.
He therefore made it his business to extract Freddy's love story from him
when the two were in the train making for Sheepeak, via Thawley
and Beswick.

"Where did you meet her?" asked Dan abruptly, as they had the compartment
to themselves, and he had exhausted not only the newspapers but
the magazines.

"Her?" repeated Laurance, who was calmly smoking, with his feet on the
opposite seat; "what her?"

"The Her. The one girl in the world for you?"

"Oh, bosh!" Freddy coloured, and looked pleasantly embarrassed.

"Is it? Perhaps you are right" and Dan began to hum a simple little
American song, entitled, "I wonder who's kissing her now."

Laurance took this personally. "No one is! I can trust her."

"Trust who?" asked Dan innocently.

"The person you mentioned now. Miss Vincent,--Mildred."

"Did I mention her? Well, now you recall her name, I did. Old man, we are
the best of friends, but this fourth estate habit of holding your
confounded tongue is getting on my nerves. Give yourself a treat by
letting yourself go. I am ready to listen," and he leaned back with a
seraphic smile.

Freddy did not fence any longer, but came out with details. After all,
since he could trust Dan, he was beginning to think that it would be
delightful to talk his heart empty. "She's the dearest girl in the world,"
was the preamble.

Dan twiddled his thumbs. "We all say that. Now Lillian--"

"Mildred! We are speaking of her." Freddy spoke very fast lest his friend
should interrupt. Since Dan wanted confidences, Dan should have them given
to him in a most thorough manner. "Mildred is an angel, and her uncle is
an old respectable, clever beast."

"Yes!" said Halliday persuasively. "I thought in that way of Sir Charles
when he interrupted private conversations between Lillian and myself. I am
of the same opinion as regards Sir John Moon because--"

"Yes, I know what you mean by 'because'. But with regard to Mildred--"

"Who is an angel. Yes?"

"I met her a year ago in London--Regent Street, to be precise as to
locality. A snob spoke to her without an introduction, so she appealed to
me, and I punched his head. Then I escorted her home--"

"To Hillshire? What a knight-errant!" chuckled Dan.

"Don't be an ass. I escorted her to the Guelph Hotel in Jermyn Street,
where she and her uncle were staying. The uncle appreciated the service I
did for his niece, and made me welcome, especially when he found that, as
a newspaper man, I was able to talk in print about his machines. For an
inventor the old man has an excellent idea of business."

"Inventors being generally fools. So you called the next day to see if
Miss Vincent's nerves were better."

Freddy cast a look of surprise at Dan's dark face. "How did you guess
that, Halliday? Well, I did, and I got on better with Solomon Vincent
than ever."

"Undoubtedly you got on better with the niece," murmured Dan,
mischievously.

"Well," Laurance coloured, "you might put it that way."

"I do put it that way," said Dan firmly, "and from personal experience."

"Not with Mildred. To make a long story short, I saw a great deal of them
in town, and took them out to dinner and got them theatre seats, and fell
deeper in love every day. Then Vincent asked me to visit Sheepeak to
inspect his machines and I wrote several articles in 'The Moment'."

"Ah. I thought I remembered Vincent's name. I read those articles. But you
didn't mention the niece."

"Ass!" said the journalist scornfully, "is it likely? Well, that's the
whole yarn. I've been several times to Sheepeak and Vincent likes me."

"To the extent of taking you as a nephew?" inquired Dan, thoughtfully.

"No, hang him! That's why I call him a beast. He says that Mildred is
necessary to his comfort as a housekeeper, and he won't allow her to marry
me. She is such a good girl that she obeys her uncle because he brought
her up when her parents died, and has been a father to her."

"A dull romance and a league-long wooing, with the lady in Hillshire and
the swain in London. How long is this unsatisfactory state of things going
to last, my son?"

"I don't know," rejoined Freddy mournfully, "until her uncle dies,
perhaps."

"Then let us hope he'll fly once too often," said Dan cheerfully; "but do
not be downhearted. I am sure it will be all right. I shall dance at your
wedding and you will dance at mine. By the way, there's no necessity to
talk to Vincent or his niece about our endeavours to spot this gang."

"Of course not. The matter won't be mentioned. All I am talking about is
private, and you come to Sheepeak with me to get a machine so as to win
the London to York race. It will be an advertisement for Vincent."

"That's all right. And Mildred--talk about her, old man. I know you are
dying to explain the kind of angel she really is. Lull me to sleep with
lover's rhapsodies"--a request with which Freddy, now having broken the
ice, was perfectly willing to comply. He described Mildred's appearance
with a lover's wealth of details, drew attention to her many admirable
qualities, quoted her speeches, praised her talents, and thus entertained
his friend--and incidentally himself--all the way to Thawley. Dan closed
his eyes and listened, puffing comfortably at his pipe. Occasionally he
threw in a word, but for the greater part of the time held his peace, and
let Laurance babble on about his darling's perfections. Secretly, Dan did
not think these could match Lillian's in any way.

At the great manufacturing town of Thawley, which was overshadowed by a
cloud of dun smoke, the travellers left the main line, and crossed to
another platform where they boarded the local train to Beswick.
This station was only six miles down the line, and they turned on their
tracks to reach it, since it branched off from the main artery into the
wilds. It nestled at the foot of a lofty hill covered from top to bottom
with trees, now more or less leafless. Laurance informed his companion
that there was a ruined abbey hidden in the wood, and also pointed out
several interesting places, for he was well acquainted with the locality.
At Beswick they piled their bags on a ramshackle old trap, and proceeded
in this to climb up a long, winding, steep road, which mounted gradually
to the moors. As the year was yet wintry and the hour was late, the air
became wonderfully keen, and--as Freddy said--inspiriting. Dan, however,
did not find it so, as he felt quite sleepy, and yawned the whole way
until the trap stopped at the solitary hotel of Sheepeak, a rough stone
house, with thick walls and a slate roof.

The landlady, raw-boned, sharp-eyed, and not at all beautiful, met them at
the door, smiling in what was meant for an amiable manner when she saw
Laurance. "Oh, you're here again?" she said defiantly, and Dan noticed
that beyond the northern burr she did not reproduce the country dialect.

"Yes, Mrs. Pelgrin, and I have brought a friend to stay for three or four
days. We want two bedrooms and a sitting-room, and supper straight away."

"You shall have them," said Mrs. Pelgrin, still defiantly.

"And the price will be a pound each for the four days," ventured Freddy.

"With ten shillings extra for the sitting-room," said Mrs. Pelgrin,
fiercely.

"Oh, come now."

"I'll not take you in for less."

"Well," put in Dan, shrugging, "sooner than stand here in the cold and
argue, I shall pay the extra ten shillings."

"Cold, do you call it? Cold!" Mrs. Pelgrin's tone was one of scorn.
"Ha, cold!" and she led the way through a flagged stone passage to a large
and comfortable room at the back of the house. "Will this suit you?"

"That's all right, Mrs. Pelgrin," said Freddy, throwing himself down on a
slippery horse-hair sofa--"and supper?"

"You'll have it when it's ready, no sooner and no later," barked the
ogress, leaving the room. "Cold is it?" and she laughed hoarsely.

"I say, Freddy," observed Halliday in a lazy tone, "why is the good lady
so very savage?"

"She isn't. Mrs. Pelgrin is quite fond of me. I've stayed here often."

"Fond of you?" echoed Dan, with a chuckle. "Good Lord, how does she speak
to those she isn't fond of?"

"It's northern brusqueness. She's honest--"

"But rude. The two seem to go together with many people. They think they
will be taken for rascals if they are decently polite."

Laurance remonstrated. "Mrs. Pelgrin is a rough diamond."

"I like my jewels polished. However, here we are and here we stay, and
here we eat, if that amiable lady will bring in supper. Then I shall go to
bed, as I shall certainly yawn my head off if I don't."

"But it's just after six," cried Laurance. "I want to take you to see
Vincent to-night--this evening, that is."

"Go yourself and see the beautiful Mildred," muttered Dan drowsily.
"Two's company and three's a crowd. I'm going to bed"; and, in spite of
Laurance's arguments against such sloth, to bed he went, after a brisk
fight with Mrs. Pelgrin over a fire in his sleeping apartment. He said
that he wanted one, while the landlady declared that it was unnecessary.
Finally Dan got his own way, and when the fire was blazing, Mrs. Pelgrin
said goodnight.

"But you're no more nor a butterfly," she informed her guest, and went out
banging the door, with muttering remarks concerning people who felt cold.

"No doubt this weather is here regarded as tropical," murmured Dan,
getting into bed and referring to the weather; then he giggled over Mrs.
Pelgrin's manners until he fell asleep.

Next morning Laurance woke him at eight, and Dan grumbled about getting
up, although he was assured that he had slept the clock round. However a
cold bath soon brisked him up, and he came down to the sitting-room with
an excellent appetite for breakfast. Mrs. Pelgrin brought it in, and again
joked in her fierce way about the cold, which the butterfly--as she again
termed Dan--was supposed to feel so keenly. Laurance talked about Mildred,
who had been delighted to see him, but mentioned regretfully that he did
not think that Dan would get the machine he was in search of.

"Why not?" asked Dan Halliday, lighting his pipe and finishing his third
cup of coffee. "Vincent wants his aeroplanes exploited, doesn't he?
And where will he find a better chance than for an experienced man, such
as I am, flying his latest invention in 'The Moment's' London to York
race?"

"Vincent's a queer fish. That's all I can say," retorted Laurance.

"Well, you can't say more and you can't say less, I suppose. We'll go and
have a look at the queer fish in his pond whenever you like."

"At eleven o'clock then."

"Right oh! I can talk to the uncle and you can take on the niece. It's a
fair division of labour."

This arrangement was willingly agreed to by Laurance, as Dan was certain
it would be since he saw that his friend was fathoms deep in love.
Afterwards, the two went out of doors and surveyed the landscape.
Sheepeak was situated on the top of a lofty tableland, the village being a
tolerably large collection of substantial stone houses, whence the moors
spread north and south, east and west. From where they were, the friends
could see the green squares of cultivated fields, the purple bloom of the
heather, and the azure hues which distance gave to the distant mountains.
Here and there the vast country, which looked enormously large from the
elevation whence they surveyed it, dipped into verdant dales, snugly
clothed with forests, and sprinkled with manor-houses and villages, big
and little. The lands were so far-stretching and the prospect so
extensive, that Dan became mightily impressed with the magnitude of the
sky. It covered them like a huge inverted cup, and as there was nothing to
break its league-long sweep, Dan felt quite small in the immensity which
surrounded him above and below.

"I feel like a pill in the Desert of Sahara," said Halliday, sighing.

"What is the sensation of feeling like a pill?" rejoined Laurance drily,
for he was not an imaginative individual.

"Only a poet can explain, Freddy, and you are very earthy."

"I never knew you were a genius," snapped Laurance, with a shrug.

"You have much to learn," replied Halliday reprovingly; "and as it's near
eleven o'clock, suppose we light out for Vincent."

Freddy agreed, and skirting the village for three-quarters of a mile, they
suddenly came upon a small cottage, with walls and roof of yellowish stone
covered with lichen, and standing in a small garden of wind-tormented
vegetation. A low stone wall divided this from the high road, and the
visitors entered through a small wooden gate to pass up a cobblestone walk
to the modest door. But the cottage itself was dwarfed wholly by huge
sheds of wood covered with roofs of galvanised tin, which loomed up
suddenly behind it, on a vast scale more in keeping with the character of
the landscape. These were the workshops of Vincent, where he built his
machines and housed them from prying eyes. The fields at the back
cultivated into smooth lawns were where the aeroplanes started to fly over
hill and dale to the wonderment of the inhabitants.

"Though they are pretty well used to Vincent's vagaries by this time,"
said Freddy, ending his explanation.

Mildred received them in the small parlour of the cottage which was about
the size of a doll's drawing-room, and expressed herself as pleased to
make the acquaintance of Mr. Halliday. Her uncle, she mentioned, was busy
as usual in his workshop, but would see the visitors in half an hour.
While she explained, Dan took stock of her, and admitted that she was
really a very amiable and pretty girl, though not a patch on Lillian.
But then Dan did not care for tall ladies with olive complexions, blue
eyes, dark hair, and the regal melancholy look of discrowned queens.
Mildred--the name suited her--was too tall and stately for his taste,
which approved more of little golden-haired women, fairy-like and
frolicsome. Miss Vincent looked serious and thoughtful, and although her
smile was delicious, she smiled very seldom. It seemed to Dan that her
solitary life in these moorlands and in the company--when she enjoyed
it--of her morose uncle, made the girl sober beyond her years, which were
not more than two and twenty. However, many minds many tastes, and Dan
could not deny but what Freddy's fair Saxon looks went very well with the
Celtic mystic appearance of the inventor's niece. They were a handsome
couple, indeed, but much too solemn in looks and character for Dan, whose
liking leaned to the frivolous side of things.

"Don't you find it dull here, Miss Vincent?" asked Halliday casually.

"Dull!" she echoed, turning her somewhat sad eyes of dark blue in his
direction, "oh, not at all. Why, I have a great deal to do. We have only
one servant and I assist in the housework. My uncle is not easy to cater
for, as he has many likes and dislikes with regard to food. Then he
employs a certain number of workmen, and I have to pay them every
Saturday. Indeed, I look after all the financial part of my uncle's
business."

"Is it a business, or a whim--a hobby?" inquired Dan respectfully, for,
being frivolous, he was struck with awe at the multitude of Miss Vincent's
employments.

"Well, more of the last than the first perhaps," said Mildred smiling at
his respectful expression. "Uncle Solomon really doesn't care for
publicity. All his aim is to construct a perfect machine, and he is always
inventing, and improving, and thinking of new ways in which to obtain the
mastery of the air."

"His machines have been tried by other people, though," remarked Freddy.

"Oh, yes, and with great success. But uncle doesn't even read the papers
to see what is said about his aeroplanes, although he is always anxious to
learn what other inventors are doing, and takes a great interest in races
across the Channel and over the Alps, and from city to city. But he is
wrapt up in his own schemes, and works for twelve and more hours out of
the twenty-four towards perfecting his machines. Public applause or public
rewards don't appeal to him, you see, Mr. Halliday; it's the work itself."

"Ah, that's the true spirit of genius," said Dan approvingly, "a man like
that is sure to arrive."

"He will never arrive," said Miss Vincent quietly, "for as soon as he
arrives at one point, he only regards it as a resting-place to start for a
further goal. He doesn't care for food, or drink, or clothes, or politics,
or amusements, or anything for which the ordinary man strives. His machine
takes up all his attention."

"Happy man! To have one strong aim and to be allowed to work at that aim,
is the true happiness of any man. I shall be glad to have a talk
with him."

"He doesn't talk much, Mr. Halliday."

"A man obsessed with one idea seldom does," retorted the young fellow.
"I hope, however, he will let me have a machine for this race. I can
handle any aeroplane, once it is explained to me, and Freddy here, says
that your uncle's machines have many improvements likely to tell
against competitors."

"I am not sure if he will let you have a machine," said Mildred, her face
clouding; "he is very jealous and whimsical, you know."

"Like all inventors," murmured Laurance rising, "let us go and see him."

"Yes," added Dan, also getting on his feet, "and then you take Freddy
away, Miss Vincent, and let me talk to your uncle. I shall get what I
want, somehow."

Mildred laughed and led the way out of the cottage by the back door.
"It is not an easy task you have set yourself to do," she said,
doubtfully; "here are the workshops and the buildings where the machines
are housed, and yonder is Uncle Solomon."

The buildings looked plebeian and gimcrack with their flimsy wooden walls
and tin roofs, impressive only in their magnitude. They must have cost a
deal to erect in this neighbourhood where all the houses, great and small,
were of stone; and wood was comparatively scarce. Vincent, as Dan
considered, must be well-off to indulge in so expensive a hobby. To be
sure, by racing he could gain prizes, and if successful could also sell
machines at a good figure; but from what Mildred had said, it seemed to
Dan that her uncle had the true jealous spirit of an inventor, and did not
let his darlings go out of his hands if he could help it. To live on this
vast moorland, working at his inventions and experimenting with his ideas
was enough for Solomon Vincent, without the applause and rewards of the
world. Undoubtedly to carry out his plans he must have a private income,
and not an inconsiderable one at that.

"Uncle, this is Mr. Laurance and Mr. Halliday," said Mildred, introducing
the two young men, though the first did not require mention.

But Vincent like most inventors, was absent-minded, and it took him quite
a minute to recognise Laurance, whom he had not seen on the
previous night.

"Mr. Laurance and Mr. Halliday," he said casually, and turning from the
workman to whom he had been speaking--"yes, of course. You understand
about the propellor, Quinton," he added, again taking up his conversation
with the workman, "it must be seen to at once," and quite oblivious of the
company he went on giving instructions, until the man went away to do his
task, and Mildred touched her uncle's arm.

"This is Mr. Laurance and Mr.--"

"Of course I know it is Mr. Laurance," said Vincent testily, "do you think
I am blind? How do you do, Laurance. Good-bye, I am busy."

"And this is Mr. Halliday, who wants a machine," went on Mildred
persuasively.

"Indeed. Then Mr. Halliday shan't get one," retorted Vincent, and
sauntered into the nearest shed with a scowl on his lean face. He was an
acrid-looking man of fifty, with untidy grey hair and an untrimmed beard.

"Follow him, and he will talk," said Mildred hastily, "I shall remain here
with Freddy, as uncle doesn't like many people to be about him."

"He is not easy to get on with," sighed Dan, "I can see that." However, he
took the girl's advice and went into the shed after the ungracious
inventor, leaving the lovers to return to the cottage parlour, which they
did forthwith. Laurance was quite astute enough to lose no time, since the
moments spent with Mildred were all golden and not easily obtainable.

Dan marched into the shed with a fine air of possession, and again
surveyed Vincent, who was examining some specifications near a window.
The man was carelessly dressed in a shabby suit of blue serge, and seemed
to care little about his personal appearance. Marking once more his shaggy
hair and beard, and yellow skin considerably wrinkled, the young man went
up to him. As if waking from a dream, Vincent looked up, and Dan met the
gaze of two very keen dark eyes, whose expression was anything
but amiable.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" demanded the owner of the eyes,
crossly.

"My name is Halliday. I want a machine to race between London and York.
I have just been introduced to you by your niece."

"My niece should have more sense than to have brought you here," cried the
inventor fiercely; "you come to spy out my ideas and to steal them."

"I assure you I don't," said Dan drily. "I am not a genius as you are."

"All the more reason you should pick my brains," snapped Vincent, in no
way mollified by the compliment, as Dan intended he should be.

Halliday laughed. "If I did, I could make no use of my pickings, Mr.
Vincent, as you may guess. I can handle a machine, but I can't put
one together."

"Who told you about me?" demanded the man suspiciously.

"Laurance."

"He's a meddlesome fool."

"Well," said Dan cheerfully, "there may be two opinions about that,
you know."

"I don't want him, and I don't want you, and I don't want any one. Why do
you come and bother me when I don't want you?"

"Because my wants are to be considered. See here, Mr. Vincent," added
Halliday in a coaxing voice, for he saw that it was necessary to humour
this clever man like a child, "there is to be a race between London and
York for a big prize given by 'The Moment', the paper Mr. Laurance works
for. I wish to compete, but my machine isn't so good as I should like it
to be. I hear that you have made several improvements which make for speed
and easier handling of aeroplanes. Let me have one of your latest, and
I'll share the prize with you. It's two thousand, you know."

"I don't want money," snapped Vincent abruptly.

"I congratulate you," said Dan coolly; "and yet large sums must be needed
to help you to build machines. You must be rich. Are you rich?"

Vincent grew a dusky red, and glanced in an odd way over his shoulder, as
if he expected to find someone at his elbow. "Mind your own business," he
said in a harsh voice, and with suppressed fury; "whether I'm rich or not,
is my business. You shan't have an aeroplane of mine. Clear out!"

Dan did clear out, but as he went, wondered why the man was so angry and
confused. He seemed quite afraid of the simple question that had been put.



Chapter VII. THE HERMIT LADIES

Dan was not naturally of a suspicious nature, but since taking up the
profession of a detective, he had become so. Slight matters that formerly
he would not have noticed, now attracted his attention, and, as the saying
goes, he saw a bird in every bush. For this reason while returning slowly
to the cottage, he considered Vincent's backward glance, which hinted at
nervousness, and his unnecessarily angry reply to the question as to
whether he was rich. Usually dreamy and absent-minded, the turn taken by
the conversation had awakened the tiger in the man, and apparently he
regarded Halliday as over-inquisitive. Yet why the inventor should take
this view, Dan could not conjecture. But after musing for a few minutes,
the young man began to think that he was making a mountain our of a
mole-hill. And whatever secret Vincent had in his life, as his suddenly
aggressive attitude showed, it could have nothing to do with the
particular quest upon which Dan was bent. Halliday therefore dismissed the
matter from his mind with a shrug, and went into the cottage to disturb
the lovers.

"Well, Mr. Halliday," remarked Mildred, whose cheeks were flushed and
whose eyes were bright, "what did my uncle say?"

"Very little, but what he did say was to the point. He refuses to let me
have a machine."

"How like him," ejaculated Laurance quickly; "but upon what grounds?"

Dan scratched his chin. "Really, I don't know. He seems to think that I am
a spy desirous of learning his trade secrets. He called you a meddling
fool, Freddy."

"Ah, that is because I wish to marry Mildred," replied Freddy, drily; "it
is very natural that Mr. Vincent should object to a man, who comes to rob
him of his treasure, so I don't mind his abuse."

"I am not a treasure," cried Mildred, becoming pink.

"You are. Who knows that better than I, my darling."

"You think too well of me."

"Impossible. You are the best and dearest--"

"Stop! Stop!" Mildred covered her face. "Remember we are not alone."

"Oh, don't mind me," said Dan, phlegmatically. "I'm in love myself,
Miss Vincent."

She nodded comprehendingly. "With Miss Moon. Freddy has told me."

"Has he told you that my marriage depends upon my finding out who murdered
her father?" questioned the young man dismally.

"Yes, and that you need money for the search."

"Which money," continued Laurance determinedly, "must be obtained by Dan
winning this London to York race. That can be done, I am certain, with one
of your uncle's aeroplanes, Mildred, as he has made wonderful improvements
in their structure, and--"

"But he declines to furnish me with a machine," interrupted Halliday in a
vexed tone, "not even my offer to share the 2,000 prize tempts him. He is
too rich, I suppose?" he cast an inquiring glance at the girl.

Mildred shook her head. "Uncle Solomon is not rich," she replied quietly.

"He must be," insisted Dan sharply; "he could not indulge in such an
expensive hobby otherwise."

"Mrs. Jarsell helps him with money, though, to be sure, he has a little of
his own. Still, unless she supplied money, Uncle Solomon could not go on
building aeroplanes, especially as he rarely sells one, and wishes to keep
all his inventions to himself. His idea is to invent a perfect machine and
then sell it to the Government, and he fancies that if he allows anyone
else to handle his aeroplanes, his secrets may be prematurely discovered."

"Well, I can see his objection in that way," assented Dan, "since more
ideas are stolen than pocket handkerchiefs, as Balzac says.
But Mrs. Jarsell?"

"She is a rich and rather eccentric lady, who lives at The Grange," said
Mr. Laurance, before Mildred could reply.

"I am as wise as I was before, Freddy. It's an odd thing for a lady to
finance an inventor of flying machines. She must be large-minded and have
a very great deal of money."

"She is large-minded and she has plenty of money," admitted Mildred
vivaciously; "her influence with my uncle is extraordinary."

"Not at all if she supplies the cash," said Dan cynically; "but I have an
idea, Miss Vincent. Suppose we enlist Mrs. Jarsell's sympathies."

"About the murder?"

"No," said Halliday, after thinking for a moment or so. "I don't see the
use of talking too much about that. The more secret Freddy and I keep our
hunt, the better prospect have we of success, since the gang will not be
on guard, as it were. No, Miss Vincent, introduce me to Mrs. Jarsell as a
young and ardent lover who wishes to make money in order to marry the girl
of his heart. If she is romantic--and nine old ladies out of ten are
romantic--she will induce your uncle to give me his newest aeroplane."

"If she decides to help you, Uncle Solomon certainly will give you what
you want," Mildred assured him, "since Mrs. Jarsell has supplied him with
so much money for his experiments." She thought for a second, then raised
her head cheerfully. "We shall see Mrs. Jarsell and Miss Armour this
afternoon."

"Who is Miss Armour?"

"Mrs. Jarsell's companion and relative and confidential friend. She's a
dear old thing, and is sure to sympathise with your romance."

"All the better, so long as she can influence Mrs. Jarsell."

"She can influence her, as Mrs. Jarsell swears by her," put in Freddy.
"Oh, I think you'll pull it off, Dan! It's a good idea to work old Vincent
through the hermit ladies."

"The hermit ladies," echoed Dan wonderingly, "an odd reputation.
Hermits are usually masculine."

"Mrs. Jarsell and Miss Armour are an exception," said Laurance laughing;
"in fact they are modern representatives of that eccentric couple of
ladies who lived at Llangollen. You remember them."

"I have heard the names," murmured Dan reflectively. "The Old Ladies of
Llangollen, who eloped together and lived in Wales. I should rather like
to see this pair that follow so strange an example. When are we to go?"

"This afternoon," repeated Mildred, nodding brightly, "I really think
something may come of the visit, Mr. Halliday. You and Freddy go back to
'The Peacock' for dinner and then call for me later--say at three o'clock.
I am a favourite with the hermit ladies and have leave to bring anyone to
afternoon tea,--especially nice young men. Mrs. Jarsell and Miss Armour
are fond of young men."

"Giddy old things," said Dan gaily. "I hope they will take a fancy to me;
I shall do my best to charm them. Well?"

"You must go now, Mr. Halliday, as I have much to do before taking an
hour off."

"Vincent works you too hard, Mildred," said Laurance impatiently, as he
took up his cap, "you can't call a moment your own."

"I shall call two hours or so my own this afternoon," replied Mildred
amiably, and sent the young men away quite happy, since there was a
promising chance that Dan would gain his ends.

"That's a delightful girl," said Dan, when the two were seated at dinner.
"I should like to marry her if Lillian were not in existence."

"I'm glad that Lillian is, Dan, since I want to marry Mildred myself.
Don't poach, you animal."

"I won't," promised Halliday generously, "I don't like dark hair. But it's
no use arguing. Let us eat and drink, for I have to fascinate Mrs. Jarsell
and her bosom friend. I'll get hold of that aeroplane somehow."

"We are here for that purpose," said Laurance, determined to have the last
word, and as Dan was hungry he let him have it.

The Grange--at which they arrived late in the afternoon, the two men
escorting the one girl--was a large, rambling mansion built of yellowish
stone, its original colour more or less washed out by rain and burnt out
by sunshine. The surface of the massive walls was grimy with black and
rough with lichens, while the broad, flat stones of the roof were covered
with damp green moss. The house, although in two storeys, was of no great
height, and stood on the uttermost verge of the hill, which sloped
abruptly down into the valley. The view should have been very fine, but
sundry tall houses had been built round The Grange, which prevented the
owner from enjoying the magnificent aspect. This shutting-in--according to
legend--was due to the malice of a disinherited brother of Jacobean times,
who had created quite a village round about the estate so as to block out
the view. But the present inhabitants did not mind much, for, as Mildred
explained, both Miss Armour and Mrs. Jarsell stayed within doors a
great deal.

"In fact, Miss Armour is more or less paralysed, and sits in a big chair
all day, reading and knitting, and talking and playing Patience," said
Mildred, as the trio turned into a small courtyard, and found themselves
facing a squat door, set in a porch sufficiently massive to serve for the
entrance to a mausoleum.

An elderly maid, in an incongruous dress of brilliant scarlet, admitted
them into a darkish hall, whose atmosphere, suggestive of a Turkish bath
in a mild way, hinted that the house was heated by steam pipes, as was
indeed the case. There were some carved boxes of black oak in the hall and
three or four uncomfortable high-backed chairs, but the walls and floor
were bare, and the general aspect was somewhat bleak. However, when the
visitors were conducted along a narrow passage, ill-lighted and dismal,
they were introduced to a large low-ceilinged room, richly and luxuriously
and picturesquely furnished. The brilliant garb of the maid-servant suited
this room much better than it did hall or passage, and there was a
suggestion of tropical splendour about the woman and the sitting-room
which revealed in Mrs. Jarsell a strong love of colour, warmth, and light.
Indeed, although there were three large windows looking out on to a
garden, and immediately facing the door by which they had entered, yet the
light which was admitted being insufficient--perhaps because of the wintry
gloom--the apartment was brilliantly illuminated by six lamps. Three of
these stood at one end of the room, and three at the other, on tall brass
stands, and the light, radiating through opaque globes, filled the place
with mellow splendour. The vivid scene it revealed was a strange and
unexpected one to find in these barren wilds.

What impressed Dan straight away, was the prevalence of scarlet. The walls
were covered with brightly toned paper, the floor with a carpet of
violently brilliant hue, and even the ceiling was splashed with arabesque
designs, blood-red against the white background. The furniture was of
black oak upholstered in satin of the same fiery tint, while the draperies
were of a dense black, funereal in aspect. A large fire glowed on a wide
hearth in a vermilion-tiled alcove, and the poker, tongs, shovel, and
pincers were of brass. Also there were brass candlesticks, a tripod of the
same alloy in which incense slowly smouldered and even brazen warming-pans
of antique pattern were ranged on either side of the fire-place. Thus, the
general colour-scheme was of black, scarlet, and yellow. What with the
barbaric hues, the warm atmosphere, and the faint scent of incense, Dan
felt as though he had stumbled on the den of a magician, malicious and
dangerous. But this may have only been an impression caused by coming
suddenly into this tropical room out of the chill air and
neutral-tinted landscape.

Neither Mrs. Jarsell nor Miss Armour, however, carried their love of
violent colour into their personal attire, as both were arrayed--somewhat
incongruously, considering the season--in unrelieved white. The former
lady was tall and bulky and somewhat assertive in manner, with a masculine
cast of countenance and watchful dark eyes. From the smooth olive texture
of her skin, she had probably possessed jet-black hair, before age turned
her still plentiful locks completely white. She was not, Dan concluded,
more that fifty, as she possessed great vitality, and gripped his hand in
a vigorous, manly way, quite in keeping with her commanding looks.
Her white gown was made perfectly plain; she did not display even a
ribbon, and wore no jewellery whatsoever, yet her whole appearance was
distinguished and dignified. Indeed, when she welcomed the young people
she assumed something of a motherly air, but if the hint conveyed by the
barbarically decorated room was to be taken, she was anything but
maternal. Mrs. Jarsell, as Dan mentally confessed, was something of a
puzzle; he could not place her, as the saying goes.

Miss Armour had also an unusual personality, being the antithesis of her
friend in looks and manner. To Mrs. Jarsell's massive assertiveness she
opposed a fragile timidity, and was as small of body as the other was
large. Her oval, many-wrinkled face was the hue of old ivory, her features
were delicate, and her small head drooped in a rather pensive manner.
Her white hair, not so plentiful as that of Mrs. Jarsell, was smoothly
arranged under a dainty cap of white lace, decorated, oddly enough, with
diamond ornaments. And, indeed, she wore enough jewellery for both ladies;
rings on her slender fingers, and chains round her neck, and bracelets on
her wrists, with a belt of turquoise stones, a ruby brooch, and earrings
of pearls. On a less refined person, this overloading of ornaments would
have looked vulgar, but Miss Armour, although she glittered at all points
like a heathen idol, preserved a calm dignity, which caused her sumptuous
display to appear perfectly natural. It was very strange that so
mild-looking a woman should deck herself out in this manner; so she, also,
was a puzzle to Halliday's intelligence. Indeed, the two ladies, in their
splendid room, suggested dreams of the Arabian Nights to Dan, and gave him
the impression of being concerned in some gorgeous romance.

Miss Armour, seated in the big chair which Mildred had mentioned, looked
over Dan with mild, brown eyes, and evidently approved of his good looks.

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Halliday," she said in a soft and musical
voice, quite silvery in its sound. "To an old person, such as I am, the
young are always welcome."

Dan felt called upon to pay a compliment. "You don't look old," he
said bluntly.

"Well, now-a-days, sixty cannot be called old," said Miss Armour with a
pretty laugh, "as I am assured that women of that age actually dance
in London."

"The age-limit has been extended since Victorian times," laughed Laurance,
who had seated himself near one of the windows beside Mildred.

"Yes," assented Mrs. Jarsell, in deep tones suggestive of a
mellow-sounding bell. "In those times, women went on the shelf at
thirty-five, and lived again in their children. Now-a-days, there are no
old people."

"Certainly not in this room," said Dan courteously.

"You are Irish, I should say, Mr. Halliday," remarked Miss Armour,
smiling, as she resumed her knitting of a red and white striped shawl;
"only an Irishman could pay such a pretty compliment."

"My mother was Irish," admitted Dan, amiably, "and I made a special
journey to kiss the Blarney stone in the hope that it might oil
my tongue."

Mrs. Jarsell in her heavy way seemed amused. "You have certainly
accomplished your purpose, Mr. Halliday. But what does a gay young man, as
I see you are, do in this solitary neighbourhood?" and her keen black eyes
swept over him from head to foot inquiringly.

"Ah," put in Freddy quickly, "that question brings out the reason of our
visit to you, Mrs. Jarsell. Behold in my friend a lover."

"Delightful," cried Miss Armour with great animation, "and the lady?"

"Miss Moon, the daughter of Sir Charles Moon."

"Moon? Moon?" murmured Miss Armour, as though she were invoking the
planet. "I seem to have heard that name somewhere. Eliza?" she glanced at
her friend.

"Don't you remember the murder we read about some months ago?" replied
Mrs. Jarsell heavily. "It was much talked about."

"It would need to be to reach my ears, Eliza; you know that I don't like
hearing about crime. In this neighbourhood," she addressed herself to Dan,
"we live a quiet and uneventful life, and although we take one London
newspaper daily, we know little of what is going on in the world.
My friend reads to me about the theatres and dresses, and sometimes
politics, but rarely does she inflict murder cases on me. I don't like to
hear of crime."

"I read that particular case because it caused so great a sensation," said
Mrs. Jarsell, in a deprecating tone. "You remember Sir Charles was
poisoned by some unknown woman. And now I recall the case, Mr. Halliday,
your name was mentioned in connection with it."

"Probably," said Dan, lightly, "I am engaged to Miss Moon."

"Have the police discovered who murdered Sir Charles?"

"No. Nor is there any chance that the police will make the discovery.
The woman came and the woman went after doing her work, but she has
vanished into thin air, like Macbeth's witches."

"I wonder why she murdered Sir Charles?" asked Mrs. Jarsell, after
a pause.

Halliday glanced at Laurance, and it was the latter who replied in a most
cautious manner, wishing to say as little as possible about the quest.
"The reason is not known, Mrs. Jarsell."

"But, why--" began Mildred, only to be cut short somewhat impatiently by
Miss Armour, who had been moving uneasily.

"Don't talk any more about the horrid thing," she broke out impetuously,
"I don't want to hear. Tell me of your love affair, Mr. Halliday."

"There is little to tell," said Dan, relieved that the conversation was
changed in this manner, since he did not desire to say too much of his
business in connection with the crime, "and I would not tell you that
little, but that I wish to enlist your sympathies and those of
Mrs. Jarsell."

"You have mine already," declared the old lady vivaciously, "but
why Eliza's?"

"Mrs. Jarsell can help me."

"Indeed," said that lady, looking at him hard, "in what way?"

"Let me explain," chimed in Freddy, impatient of Dan's slower methods,
"Mr. Halliday wishes to marry Miss Moon and wants money."

"But she has plenty, Mr. Laurance. The papers said that the late Sir
Charles was a millionaire."

"So he was, and Miss Moon is his heiress," cried Dan, quickly; "all the
same, I don't wish to live on my wife, and so desire to be in a position
to offer her a home, however humble. Now I am an aviator, Miss Armour, and
there is to be a race for 2,000 between London and York. I wish to
compete and desire one of Mr. Vincent's machines, as they are the most
improved kind on the market."

"They are not on the market," said Mrs. Jarsell, frowning. "Mr. Vincent
will not part with his machines until he perfects a masterpiece, and then
hopes to sell it to the Government. I don't wonder that you failed to get
an aeroplane from him."

"I did not say that," said Dan swiftly.

"Not in so many words," rejoined Mrs. Jarsell deliberately, "but I can
guess why you want my assistance. Mr. Vincent will give you a machine if I
ask him."

"And you will?" said Halliday, eagerly.

"Oh, Eliza, you must," put in Miss Armour quickly. "Vincent will do
anything for you, since you have helped him so much with money."

"I shall be delighted to help," said Mrs. Jarsell, in her quiet, slow
manner; "you shall have the machine, Mr. Halliday, and I hope you will win
the race and marry Miss Moon. But you are a bold man to offer to wed an
heiress on 2,000. Don't you want more money?"

"I want heaps and heaps," said Dan laughing, "but I have no chance of
getting it. However, two thousand will do to start with. Lillian--Miss
Moon, that is--loves me well enough to marry me at once, even on the prize
given by 'The Moment'."

"Well, Eliza will get you the machine, that is certain, Mr. Halliday.
As to the rest, I have no doubt you will be successful and win the money;
but you must have much more in order to marry Miss Moon, since I can see
that you are much too honourable a man to live on her millions.
The cards"--Miss Armour hastily put away her knitting and took a small box
from a drawer in the tiny table which stood at her elbow--"my Patience
cards, Mr. Halliday, for you know, having few amusements, I am devoted to
the game. Also I can tell fortunes. I shall tell yours," and she opened
the box to take out two packs of cards.

"Dan isn't superstitious," laughed Freddy, and approached with Mildred.

"I don't know," said Halliday gravely. "I have known cases--"

"Well, have your fortune told now," broke in Mrs. Jarsell, going to the
door, "it will amuse Miss Armour to reveal your future while I see about
the tea. I am sure you young people must be hungry."

"But I haven't thanked you for your promise to get me the machine."

Mrs. Jarsell nodded in a friendly manner. "When you win the race and marry
the young lady, you can thank me," she said with ponderous playfulness.
"Miss Armour will tell you if the Fates will be kind to you in both
respects," and she disappeared to get the tea, or rather to instruct the
red-robed servant to bring it in.

Meanwhile, Miss Armour, her mild face quite flushed with excitement, was
spreading out the cards after Dan had shuffled them. She used only one
pack, and Freddy looked on at the disposition of the coloured oblongs with
the deepest interest. Dan idly took up the unused pack, and the moment he
brought them near his eyes to examine them, he became aware that there
clung to them the same mysterious scent which Penn had stated came from
Sumatra. New as he was to the detective business, he yet had enough sense
to suppress his excitement at this discovery. Seeing that the ex-secretary
had stated very positively that no one but himself in England possessed
the perfume, it was strange, indeed, that Dan should come across it in
these wilds, and connected with the personal possessions of a harmless old
lady, confined to her chair by partial paralysis. In spite of his
coolness, he was so thunderstruck that he could scarcely stammer a reply
to Miss Armour, when she asked him if his colour-card was clubs or spades.
She saw his confusion immediately.

"What is the matter?" she demanded sharply, and her face grew peaked.

"The heat of the room, the scents, make me feel rather faint," said
Dan haltingly.

"Remove the incense burner to the end of the room, Mr. Laurance," said
Miss Armour, and when the young man did so, she turned to Halliday.
"Are you, then, so susceptible to scents?"

"Yes. I don't like strong perfumes. You do apparently, Miss Armour.
Why, even your cards are scented," and he held out the odd pack.

The lady took the cards and smelt them, but showed no sign of emotion.
"I expect it's some scent Eliza gave me a few weeks ago. I had it on my
handkerchief, and it must have got on to the cards. Have you ever smelt a
perfume like it before?" she asked, suddenly.

"No," said Dan, lying promptly, as he thought it best to be on the safe
side, "and I hope I shan't again. It's too rich for my taste."

"And was for mine," said Miss Armour indifferently. "I only used it once
or twice. Strange that you should be so susceptible to scents.
However, you feel better now. That's right. And the cards? See! There is
great good fortune coming to you."

"That's jolly," said Dan, now quite recovered.

"In a few weeks," said Miss Armour impressively, "a wonderful chance will
be offered to you. If you take it, a large amount of money will be yours
within the year. You will marry Miss Moon if you seize this chance. If you
do not, she will marry another person," and the fortune-teller gathered
her pack.

"In that case, I shall take the chance at once," said Dan promptly.

Miss Armour looked at him hard. "I advise you to do so," she said briefly.



Chapter VIII. AVIATION

The tea that followed the fortune-telling was quite a success, as Miss
Armour was a most amusing talker, and the rest of the party proved
themselves to be good listeners. The old lady, being an invalid, had ample
time for reading, and concerned herself chiefly with French Memoires, the
cynical light-hearted tone of which appealed to her. But she was also well
posted in English literature of the best kind, and could converse very
ably--as she did--on leading authors and their works. Dan complimented her
on the knowledge she had attained to.

"Oh, but it is no credit to me, Mr. Halliday," Miss Armour protested.
"I have so much time unoccupied, and grow weary of playing Patience and of
knitting. It would be strange if I did not know something after years and
years of reading. Books are my best friends."

"Then Mrs. Jarsell is also a book, or say a human document," said
Dan politely.

"She is the best woman in the world," cried Miss Armour, while Mrs.
Jarsell bent her heavy white eyebrows in acknowledgement of the
compliment. "You can have no idea how kind she is to me."

"And to whom should I be kind, but to my old governess," said Mrs. Jarsell
in a gruff way. "Why, you have taught me all I know."

"And I should think Miss Armour could teach a lot," said Laurance, in his
pleasant manner; "you know so much and have such tact, that you should be
out in the world governing people, Miss Armour."

She sent a sharp glance in his direction, as if to enquire what he exactly
meant. Then she accepted the compliment with a charming laugh. "But for
this dreadful paralysis, I should, indeed, love to be out in the world.
I long to deal with human nature, and make people do what I want."

"Can you?" asked Mildred, anxiously.

"Yes, child," replied the ex-governess quietly, "because I base my
diplomacy on the knowledge that everyone, with few exceptions, is ruled by
self. Harp on that string, and you can manage anyone."

"Miss Armour," put in Mrs. Jarsell, in her deep voice, "rather talks of
what she would do than what she does. Here, we see few people. I go up to
town on occasions, but very rarely."

"You must find it dull," said Dan candidly.

For some reason Miss Armour appeared to think this speech amusing.
"Oh, no; I don't find life dull at all, I assure you. There is always a
great deal to be done, when one knows how to set about the doing."

"As how?" questioned the young man, somewhat puzzled.

"Books and music, and card-games and knitting-work," said Mrs. Jarsell
quickly, as if she did not approve of Miss Armour's observations;
"nothing more."

"Quite so; nothing more," assented the governess, but with a sudden flash
of her brown eyes directed towards her friend. "Here we are out of the
world. Do you stay long, Mr. Halliday?"

"Only for another couple of days, until I can get the machine."

"You shall get it, I promise you," said Mrs. Jarsell graciously, when the
trio arose to depart. "Mr. Vincent owes me too much to disregard
my request."

"Of course," chimed in Mildred. "Uncle Solomon would never be able to
build his aeroplanes if you didn't help him with money. Good-bye,
Miss Armour."

"Good-bye, dear child. I shall say au revoir to you, Mr. Halliday, as I
shall expect you to come and see me again, if only to let me know that
your fortune has come true."

"Will it, do you think?"

"Yes," said Miss Armour positively. "I am quite certain that the chance
foretold by the cards will be given to you."

Dan hoped it would, and thanked the lady for her happy prediction, after
which he and Freddy, with Mildred between them, left the weird house, and
walked up the darkened road towards the village. Halliday went at once to
the "Peacock", wishing to give Freddy and his beloved a chance of a
tete-a-tete. They took it readily enough, as Laurance escorted the girl
home. It was an hour before he returned to an overdue supper, which Mrs.
Pelgrin served with fierce grumbling. After supper, Dan spoke his mind
to Laurance.

"When I took up that extra pack of cards," he said abruptly, "I smelt that
same perfume that hung about Sir Charles's clothes when he was dead."

"What!" Freddy sat up aghast in his corner of the room, "the perfume about
which Penn explained?"

"The same. But did he explain? It seems to me that he told a lie. If he
only had one bottle, and the perfume is not procurable in England, seeing
it is manufactured in Sumatra, how did Miss Armour become possessed
of it?"

"It may not be the same scent," said Laurance, still aghast; "you see a
bird in every bush, Dan."

"This is not a question for the eyes, but for the nose. I tell you,
Freddy, that the perfume is exactly the same."

"Why did you not ask Miss Armour about it?"

"I did; you heard me. She got it from Mrs. Jarsell, so she said. Now where
did Mrs. Jarsell get it? From Sumatra?"

"Perhaps. Why not ask her straight out?"

"No," said Dan decisively. "I shall not mention the subject to Mrs.
Jarsell until I have questioned Marcus Penn once more. He told me a lie
once, by saying that no one in this country possessed this especial
perfume. He shan't tell me another."

"How do you mean to get him to tell you the truth?" asked Freddy dubiously.

"Never mind. I have some sort of a plan. I shan't explain until it comes
off. There is some connection between that perfume and the crime, I am
certain," concluded Dan, with a positive air.

Laurance wriggled uneasily. "Oh, that is absurd! On such an assumption,
you suggest that Miss Armour knows about the matter."

"About what matter?"

"You know-the gang."

"Well," said Halliday, smoking thoughtfully, "we are not entirely certain
yet if such a gang exists. It's all theory anyhow, in spite of the letters
you drew from this person and the other. Penn certainly explained the
scent, but told an obvious lie, since Miss Armour has it. I don't say that
she knows anything, but it is strange that she should possess the
Sumatra perfume."

"Other people can send the same perfume to England," retorted Freddy.
"Penn isn't the sole person who has friends in Sumatra. Mrs. Jarsell,
since she gave the scent to Miss Armour, may have friends in that island.
Ask her."

"No," said Dan, very positively. "I shall ask no one until I make Penn
speak out. In any case, I want to know why he told a lie."

"Perhaps he didn't."

"I'm jolly well sure that he did."

"Then, to put it plainly--you suspect Mrs. Jarsell?"

"To answer plainly, I don't. There can be no connection between two
harmless old ladies living in these wilds and the murder of Sir Charles.
Yet this confounded scent forms a link between the dead man, Mrs. Jarsell,
and Penn."

Laurance rubbed his chin reflectively. "It's odd, to say the least of it.
I suppose you are certain that the perfume is the same?"

"I'll swear to it." Dan rose and knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "And I
intend to learn how Mrs. Jarsell became possessed of it. I may be on a
wild goose chase. All the same, with the stake I have, I can't afford to
lose an opportunity."

"So Miss Armour said, when she told your fortune," commented Freddy
thoughtfully.

"Yes. I wonder what she meant?" Dan stretched himself. "I'm for bed.
Ring the bell, and ask Mrs. Pelgrin for the spirits."

Laurance, not feeling called upon to resume the conversation, as he was
tired himself, did as he was told, and Mrs. Pelgrin, raw-boned and grim,
bounced aggressively into the room, to demand fiercely what they required.
She sniffed when whisky was ordered, but as its consumption would increase
her bill, she brought in a bottle of "Johnny Walker" and a syphon of soda,
without comment. When she turned to depart, and wished them good-night in
tones suggestive of a gaoler, a sudden thought struck Dan. It would not be
amiss, he thought, to question Mrs. Pelgrin concerning the hermit ladies.
Not that he expected a great deal to result from his examination, as the
worthy woman was a she-cat, and what she knew would probably have to be
clawed out of her.

"We had tea at the Grange to-day, Mrs. Pelgrin," said Dan casually.

The landlady wrapped her hands in her apron, and wheeled grimly at the
door to speak agressively. "Ho!" she grunted.

"What's that?"

"I said 'Ho,' and 'Ho's' all I'm going to say."

"Well," drawled Freddy with a shrug, "you can't say much less, you know."

"Less or much, I don't say anything," retorted Mrs. Pelgrin, screwing up
her hard mouth and nodding.

"Nobody wants you to say anything," remarked Dan lazily, but on the alert.

Of course this speech opened the landlady's mouth. "People say as it's
queer two ladies should live like dormice in a haystack," she observed
significantly.

"That's like people. They will meddle with what doesn't concern them."

"Not me," snorted Mrs. Pelgrin violently, and epigrammatically. "I don't
say what I could say, for what I could say wouldn't be what's right
to say."

"Wouldn't it?" inquired Freddy, innocently.

"No, it wouldn't, Sir; I'm not to be pumped," cried Mrs. Pelgrin, "try you
ever so hard. So there!" and she screwed up her mouth tighter than ever.

"Who is pumping?" asked Dan coolly; "I simply remarked that we had tea
with Mrs. Jarsell and Miss Armour to-day."

"Friends of yours, no doubt?" snapped the landlady.

"I never saw them before to-day, Mrs. Pelgrin."

"Then don't see them again," advised the woman sharply.

"Thank you for that advice. Anything wrong?"

"Wrong! Wrong! What should be wrong?" Mrs. Pelgrin became more violent
than ever. "There's nothing wrong."

"Then that's all right," said Halliday coolly. "Good-night."

Mrs. Pelgrin stared hard at him, evidently wondering why he did not press
his questions, seeing how significant a remark she had made. The idea that
her conversation was trivial in his eyes hurt her self-esteem. She gave
another hint that she knew something. "I wonder how those ladies make
their money," she observed casually to the ceiling.

"Ah, I wonder," agreed Dan, making a covert sign that Freddy should
restrain the question now on the tip of his tongue.

"Three motor-cars," said Mrs. Pelgrin musingly, "four servants, women all
and sluts at that, I do say, with a house like a palace inside, whatever
it may be to look at from the road. All that needs money, Mr. Halliday."

"Quite so. Nothing for nothing in this greedy world."

"Ten years have those ladies been here," continued the landlady,
exasperated by this indifference as Dan intended she should be, "and dull
they must find that old house. To be sure, Miss Armour is ill, and never
moves from her chair--so they say," she ended emphatically and stared
at Halliday.

"So who say?" he inquired phlegmatically.

"Everyone, Sir. She's paralysed--so they say."

"And Mrs. Jarsell attends to her like an angel," remarked Dan suavely;
"they say that also, you know."

"Why do you advise us not to see the ladies again?" asked Freddy, who
could not longer rein in his curiosity.

Halliday was annoyed by the question, as he thought it would dry up the
stream of Mrs. Pelgrin's hinted information. But, instead of this
happening, she became excessively frank. "Well, it's this way, Mr.
Laurance," she said, rubbing her nose in a vexed manner. "You are two nice
young gentlemen, and I don't want either of you to step in and spoil
George's chance."

"George?"

"My nephew, he being the son of my late husband's brother, and a porter at
the Thawley railway station. Mrs. Jarsell had taken quite a fancy to him,
he being a handsome lad in his way, and the chances are she will leave him
a lot of her money, if you two gentlemen don't take her fancy. Now you
know my reason for not wanting you to see her again."

"Oh, I don't think Mrs. Jarsell will leave either my friend or me money,"
said Dan affably. "George Pelgrin is quite safe. I suppose one good turn
deserves another."

"What do you mean?" said the landlady, sharper than ever.

"Well, George Pelgrin must have done something for Mrs. Jarsell to make
her leave him money."

"He's done nothing, and she don't say she'll leave him her money.
But George thinks she might, seeing she has taken a fancy to him. I don't
want you, or Mr. Laurance here, to spoil my nephew's chances."

"Oh, we shan't do that!" rejoined Halliday calmly. "I suppose George finds
it dull at the Thawley station, when there are no Sheepeak friends there
with him. Working at the station, that is."

"Oh, he doesn't find it dull!" replied Mrs. Pelgrin innocently; "he has
made friends with plenty of Thawley folk. Are you going away to-morrow?"

"Perhaps, and perhaps the next day," said Dan, wondering at the direct
question. "You see I wish to get an aeroplane from Mr. Vincent, and as
soon as I do, I shall go back to London."

"You'll be seeing Mrs. Jarsell again."

Halliday shook his head. "I shall be too busy to spare the time."

Mrs. Pelgrin drew a breath of relief, and again became fierce. "I ain't
ashamed of what I've said," she declared, pulling open the door violently;
"you can tell the whole village if you like," and she bounced out as she
had bounced in, leaving Laurance overcome with surprise.

"Now what's the meaning of all that chatter?" he asked, staring at Dan.

"Oh, it's very plain! Mrs. Jarsell has taken a fancy to her nephew, and
Mrs. Pelgrin thinks our fascinations may spoil his chance of getting
money. What I want to know is what George has done for Mrs. Jarsell to
warrant the deep interest she apparently takes in him. Evidently," mused
Dan to himself, "there are no other Sheepeak people employed at the
Thawley station."

"What of that?" Laurance stared harder than ever.

"Nothing. Only George Pelgrin would be the only person likely to know Mrs.
Jarsell at the Thawley station. There are motor-cars also, remember."

"I really don't see what you are driving at, Dan."

"I scarcely see myself, save that I want to learn the secret of that
perfume, and why it forms a link between Moon and Penn and Mrs. Jarsell."

"But how can this chatter of Mrs. Pelgrin help?" asked Freddy, more and
more puzzled.

Dan lighted his bedroom candle and walked slowly to the door before he
replied. "I shall have to sleep upon what I know before I can answer
that," he said, nodding. "Good-night, old chap!"

"But Dan, Dan, Dan!" called out Laurance, who had heard just enough to
make him wish to hear more, "tell me--"; he stopped speaking, as he saw
that Halliday was out of hearing. It was in a very dissatisfied frame of
mind that Laurance retired to his bed.

Next morning Dan had evidently quite forgotten the conversation of the
landlady, for he made no remark, and although Freddy tried to start the
subject again he declined to revert to it. Halliday declared that he did
not know what to say, that he was putting two and two together, but as yet
could not make four, and that it would be just as well to seek Mr. Solomon
Vincent, to hear if he was disposed to supply an aeroplane. "Only I
wonder," he remarked irrelevantly, as he walked up the road with his
friend, "how it comes that Mrs. Pelgrin speaks more like a Londoner than a
Derbyshire woman."

"I thought we discussed that question before," replied Laurance.
"School-boards are doing away largely with the local dialect. Also Mrs.
Pelgrin, as Mildred told me, was in service for some years at Reading. Why
do
you ask?"

"Oh, I ask nothing!" said Dan easily, "it was only an idea I had."

"Connected with the case?"

"Yes, and with Mrs. Jarsell."

"Pooh! You see a bird in every bush, Dan."

"So you said before," rejoined Halliday, drily; "why repeat yourself?
Hullo, there is our inventor!" he added, as they drew near to the cottage,
"and, by jove! he's smiling. Mrs. Jarsell has evidently spoken to him."

It was as Dan said, for Vincent received the young men with a sour smile,
which sat uneasily on his face, since he was more accustomed to frowning.
However, as he was disposed to be amiable, Dan was thankful for small
mercies, and expressed his feeling loudly when the inventor graciously
placed at his disposal an aeroplane of the latest construction.

"I owe Mrs. Jarsell much," said Vincent, leading the way towards the shed,
"so her requests must be granted. Here is the machine, Mr. Halliday."

"It's very good of you--"

"It isn't. Don't thank me, but Mrs. Jarsell. Speaking for myself, I
shouldn't allow you to have the aeroplane," said Vincent sourly. "I want
to keep all my improvements to myself until I make a perfect machine."

"Oh, I'll keep all your secrets," Dan assured him cheerfully as they
entered the vast shed, "and I'll share the prize money with you."

"I don't want it. Win the race and prove that my machine is the best.
That is all I ask. By the way, where is Laurance?"

"Don't you remember? We left him in the cottage with your niece."

"I don't want him to marry her, and he shan't," said Vincent with a frown,
speaking on the subject unexpectedly, "and, what is more, since he's a
newspaper man, I don't want you to talk too freely to him about
my improvements."

"Laurance can hold his tongue," rejoined Dan somewhat stiffly; "your trade
secrets are safe with him. So this is the machine," he ended, to avert
further discussion on the inventor's part.

"Yes," said Vincent, forgetting all else in the passion of his hobby, and
he began to explain matters. "A biplane, as you see, and it can carry
enough oil and essence for a twelve hours' flight. Wheel it out," he
added, turning to a quartette of workmen. "Mr. Halliday will try a flight."

Dan was only too ready, as the beauty of the machine appealed to him
immensely, especially when he beheld it in the pale light of the sun, when
it was brought into the open. The men wheeled it out of the back part of
the shed onto a level lawn, which could serve as a starting-place.
Vincent talked all the time in a great state of excitement, and pointed
out the various improvements and beauties of the masterpiece.

The planes were not exactly horizontal, since Vincent considered that he
gained more power by making them branch at a slight angle. The wings were
doubly covered with fine canvas, and a broad streak of crimson ran through
their white, which the inventor informed Dan was a characteristic of all
his machines. "A sort of distinguishing mark, as it were," said Vincent.
Another improvement was that the aviator could steer with his knees on
occasions, which gave freedom to the hands when necessary. The engine was
light and powerful, with tremendous driving-power considering its size.
Finally, the steering-seat--the bridge of the airship, as it might be--was
fenced in comfortably with aluminium, and a broad expanse of mica
protected the controller of the aeroplane from the force of the winds.
It was really an admirable machine and Halliday was loud in his praises,
to which, however, its maker paid little attention. Genius does not
require laudation; talent does.

Dan inspected the machine in every direction, tried the steering gear
which ran easily, saw that the engine was well supplied with fuel, and
tested, as well as he could, the various spars and ropes and bolts.
Then he took his seat in the pilot-box, and prepared for a trial flight.

"Not that she hasn't been out before," said Vincent, while Dan gathered
his energies to start. "Ready, Mr. Halliday. Let her go."

The workmen ran the machine along the lawn, Dan set the propellor going,
and after lightly spinning along the ground for some distance the
aeroplane rose into the grey sky like an immense bird. A side glance
showed Dan that Mildred and her lover were running out of the shed, and
had arrived just a moment too late to witness his start. However, he had
no time to pay attention to terrestrial matters, for all his capabilities
were given to handling the new craft. Up and up he went to a considerable
height with the engine running true and sweet, then dived nearly to earth
in switch-back fashion, only to tower again like a hawk. Shortly he was at
a lofty elevation travelling along at top speed in the direction of the
ten-mile-distant Thawley. Vincent and his workmen, Laurance and the girl,
became mere black dots, and beneath him the earth slipped past at more
than railroad speed. Once in the vast spaces of the firmament Dan let his
engines travel at their fastest, and the vanes of the propeller spun, as
an American would say, like greased lightning. Halliday's pulses raced
almost as fast, as the joy of playing with death seized him. In the
delicate structure of the aeroplane--being its soul and controlling power
--he felt like a bird and swooped in mighty arcs in proof of his
mastership of the sky.

In a few minutes he was over Thawley, and a downward glance showed him
innumerable black insects running with excitement here, there, and
everywhere, as the machine was sighted. Dan dipped nearly to the
weather-cock of the parish church, then slid out towards the northern
portion of the town. Making his aerial way with the speed of the wind
Thawley was soon left behind and the aviator hovered over a wide country
dotted with villages, intersected with streams, and rough with more or
less high hills that divided the many vales of the country. Ten minutes
took him out of Hillshire, and he flew over the wild Yorkshire moors. The
air sang past him on either side of the mica screen, which prevented his
breath being taken away. Everything was taut and fit and neat, and in its
right place, and the engine sang a song of triumph, which mingled with the
droning hum of the screw. Below was the painted earth, above the grey sky,
faintly illuminated by the wintry sunshine, and between the two Halliday
flew with the swiftness of a kestrel sighting its prey. Dan was used to
this sublime excitement, and could control his feelings--otherwise he
would have shouted for joy, which would have been from his point of view,
a mere waste of energy.

He finally reached York, circled round the Minster, and then turned his
craft homeward in glee. The machine was certainly the best he had yet
handled, and he made sure that, given moderately decent conditions, he
would win the race and gain the 2,000 necessary to continue his search
for Moon's murderess. And the capture of her, as he reminded himself,
meant his marriage with Lillian. No wonder the young man's heart beat
high, for it was not easy to come by so magnificent an aeroplane, and he
felt as grateful to Vincent for building it as he felt to Mrs. Jarsell for
procuring him the mastership of the same. 

Those Dan left on the lawn behind the Sheepeak shed stared steadily into
the grey distance, and shortly saw a dim spot moving towards them with the
swiftness of an eagle. Larger and larger it grew, until they could
distinguish the aeroplane's construction, like a delicate tracery against
the clouds. In a wide circle it moved gracefully and then like a bird
folding its wings, settled gently at the very feet of its inventor.
The trial was a complete success in every way.



Chapter IX. MAHOMET'S COFFIN

The aeroplane acquired by Halliday could be dismounted in three parts, so
that it could easily have been taken to pieces and packed for transfer to
London. But the race for "The Moment" prize was to take place within seven
days, and Dan wished to familiarize himself with the machine as much as
was possible in the interval. For this reason he decided to go by air to
the metropolis, taking the journey in easy flights, with intervals of rest
between. He therefore arranged to send his baggage back to town with
Freddy, and carried only a small black bag containing absolutely necessary
personal effects. Freddy did not object to this plan, as he did not wish
to leave Mildred sooner than was necessary. Therefore Dan started and
Laurance remained behind to pass golden hours in the girl's society. 
However, he promised his friend to be in London within two days. And as
Halliday, besides covering the hundred and sixty odd miles in short
flights, desired to practise aviation in the open spaces of the country
before getting to the capital, it was not needful for Freddy to return to
his business until forty-eight hours had passed. This arrangement suited
both the young men very well.

Vincent, who was now as hot in Dan's favour as he had been cold, presided
at the start, and again and again went over various details in connection
with the machine, which was much dearer to him than any child could have
been. Now that his objections had been set aside by the intervention of
Mrs. Jarsell, the inventor was desperately anxious that Dan should win the
race, as such a triumph would undoubtedly show the value of the
new-fangled biplane. Not that Vincent wished for the money, or even for
the glory, but he very greatly desired to show other inventors that he was
their master. His vanity, being purely concerned with the result of nights
and days of meditation, could only be gratified by actual proof that he
had conquered the air. Not entirely that is, for Vincent was far too
thorough in his genius to believe that Rome could be built in a day; but
at all events he trusted that his machine would reveal itself as the best
that any man had yet constructed. So far as that was concerned Halliday,
accustomed to aviation, believed that the sour old man had succeeded.

"If I don't win the race, it won't be your fault, Mr. Vincent," Dan
assured him, as he stepped into the pilot's box, and with this farewell
speech the inventor expressed himself very well content. He did not expect
impossibilities, and he saw that the man to whom he had entrusted his
darling airship was both cool and enthusiastic, qualities which go far
towards gaining complete success.

It was a calm day with scarcely any wind when Dan began his flight, and as
the biplane could easily attain sixty miles an hour he would have had no
difficulty in reaching London early in the afternoon. But he did not make
straight for the south, but circled gradually down to Rugby, where he
proposed to remain for the night. Dawdling in the air, it was five hours
before he alighted outside the town, and feeling weary with the strain on
his nerves--for the machine required dexterous handling--he determined to
rest. Without much difficulty he found a friendly farmer, who was willing
that the airship should be housed in an empty barn for the night. When all
was safe and Halliday had arranged that no one should enter the barn, he
sought out a cheap inn on the borders of the place to rest for the night,
within watching distance of his craft. Next morning, after breakfast, he
concluded to start again, but after a visit to the barn to see that all
was well, he returned to the inn for an hour.

It was necessary, he thought, to consider the situation and his future
plans; therefore he wished for solitude to do so. Owing to his fatigue he
had not been able to think much on the previous night before sleep
overtook him.

The plan, which Dan intended to carry into effect when he reached town,
was to force Penn into confessing what he actually knew concerning the
perfume. He had obviously spoken falsely as to his being its sole
possessor in England, since Mrs. Jarsell had given the like scent to her
old governess. Yet, why should Penn lie in this fashion, unless there was
some secret connected with the perfume, which he desired to keep
concealed? And assuredly the scent had clung round the clothes of the dead
man. Dan determined to force Penn into confession, and that could only be
done by frightening him greatly. To carry out this plan, Halliday wrote to
the man asking him for an interview, and when he came--as Dan was certain
he would--intended, in some way, to inveigle him into taking a flight.
Once Penn was in the air his fears could be played upon to some purpose.
At least Dan thought so, and was hot to make the experiment.

Of course, the young man did not suspect Mrs. Jarsell of being connected
in any way with crime of any sort. Still it was strange that the perfume
from Sumatra should form a link between her and Sir Charles Moon with Penn
intervening. It was also strange that Mrs. Pelgrin should hint that Mrs.
Jarsell had secrets. She had not said as much in so many words, but the
general trend of her cautious conversation went to show that Mrs. Jarsell
was not entirely open and above board. The landlady had wondered where the
owner of the Grange got her money. Now why should she so wonder, unless
she had proofs that the said money was not come by honestly? And why,
also, should she, in a quite unnecessary way, mention her nephew--who was
the Thawley station porter--as being friendly with Mrs. Jarsell to such an
extent that there was a chance of his getting a legacy? Ladies of wealth
do not make friends of railway porters without reason, and Dan wished to
learn the reason in this particular case. By a diplomatic question he had
ascertained from Mrs. Pelgrin that her nephew was the sole Sheepeak person
employed at the station. Consequently he would naturally be the sole
person who knew Mrs. Jarsell and all about her; therefore it was not
impossible that the lady befriended the man so that he might not speak of
her visits to town. Yet why should he not do so, Mrs. Jarsell's doings
being entirely honest? Then there were three motor-cars, a quite
unnecessary number for a lady to keep, especially as, according to her own
story, she went out little and spent most of her time in attending to Miss
Armour. On the whole, although his suspicions were vague, Dan had an idea
that Mrs. Jarsell's doings would not bear the light of day. Still--and
especially since she had procured him the biplane--he would not have
troubled about her rustic affairs save for the fact of the perfume.
It might be--and this he hoped to discover--that Penn's confession would
show more plainly the link which connected Mrs. Jarsell with the Hampstead
crime. Yet on the face of it the very idea seemed monstrous and Dan
scorned himself for his folly as he wrote the letter to Penn.
Nevertheless, something stronger than himself drove him to post
the letter.

Afterwards, to get the unpleasant taste of conspiring out of his mouth,
the young man wrote a lover-like epistle to Lillian, telling her about his
capture of the aeroplane. "You and Mrs. Bolstreath must come and see the
start of the race at Blackheath," wrote Dan, "and your mere presence will
inspire me to do my very best to win. Much hangs on my gaining this race,
as I want the money to prosecute the search for your father's assassin!"
Then Halliday left business for pleasure, and, telling Lillian that he
adored her to distraction, urged her not to see too much of Lord Curberry.
Finally, he declared that he was hungering for a glimpse of her angel
face, and now that he was returning to London intended to call and see
her, despite the prohibition of Sir John. There was much more passionate
writing to the same effect, and the letter ended with sentiments of lively
and lofty devotion. If another man had written the letter Dan would have
smiled at its vehemence, since the scribe cast himself under Miss Moon's
dainty feet to be trampled upon. But as Dan was the author of the epistle,
he only regretted that he could not say more ardent things than he had set
down. To such lengths does the passion of love carry the most
matter-of-fact of men; and Halliday certainly prided himself upon being a
very
up-to-date child of this materialistic age, believing in nothing he could
not see, or touch, or feel.

The letters having been posted, and the bill paid, and the black bag
packed, Dan took his way to the barn of the friendly farmer. He found
quite a number of people before the great doors, as the news that an
aviator was in the neighbourhood had spread rapidly. The farmer did not
wish to take any rent for the night's lodging of the aeroplane, but as it
had been guarded so carefully and was housed so comfortably, Halliday
insisted upon the man having some recompense for his kindness. Then with
the assistance of three or four willing onlookers the machine was wheeled
out into the meadow wherein the barn stood. It was close upon mid-day when
Dan started and the spectators gasped with awe and delighted surprise when
the biplane, like a big dragon-fly, soared into the cloudy sky.
Willing to give them pleasure, since an airship was not a common sight in
the neighbourhood, Halliday did some fancy flying and circled and dipped
and towered directly over the town before finally waving his hand in
farewell. A thin cry of many throats came to his ears as he sped
southward, and he was delighted to find how readily the machine answered
to every motion of his hand. He almost felt that he was riding on a live
thing, all nerves and energy, so obedient was the craft to his will.
The machine was like a flying beetle, the planes motionless to sustain the
body like the front wings of the insect, while the propeller, spinning
vigorously, acted like the back wings to drive ahead. Dan had a faint idea
of seeing some comparison of this sort in a magazine, and wondered if
Vincent, having seen it also, had constructed his aeroplane on insect
lines. But he soon dropped all conjecture to attend strictly to his
business, which was to reach London as speedily as possible; no very
difficult task, considering the swiftness of his vehicle.

It was convenient that Dan should know a shed at Blackheath where he could
house his machine, as Lord Curberry's house was in that neighbourhood.
Once on the spot it would be easy to have an interview with Marcus Penn,
and perhaps not difficult to induce him to take the air in the lofty
spaces of the sky. The neighbourhood was well known to Halliday, for his
occupation of aviation brought him often there, and he had experimented
with various inventions at various times, where the land afforded room for
the departure and arrival of the machines; therefore, when he reached
London's outskirts he made for Blackheath, and without difficulty brought
the aeroplane to earth, a stone-throw from the shed in question. It said a
great deal for the capabilities of the biplane that her pilot was enabled
to strike his destination so exactly. Of course, the usual concourse of
people gathered when the great bird-like structure fluttered down from the
sky, but Dan sent a messenger to the man who looked after the shed, and
soon had Vincent's masterpiece safely put away under lock and key. As he
had been practising flying and strenuously testing the qualities of the
machine, it was quite five o'clock before he was free to do what he would.
As the distance from Rugby was just over eighty miles he could have
arrived much earlier had he wished. But there was no need to do so, and
every need to accustom himself to handling the biplane easily in view of
the great race.

When Dan had given certain instructions to the man who looked after the
shed and was responsible for the safety of the machine, he walked across
the heath to a comfortable inn, where he was well-known, as he had put up
at it many times previously. It was here that he had appointed the meeting
with Marcus Penn for the next morning, but so eager was he to come face to
face with the man and wring the truth out of him, that he almost decided
to walk to Lord Curberry's house, which was two miles distant. But a swift
reflection that he could do nothing until the next morning--since Penn had
to be coaxed on to the aeroplane and certainly would decline a
night-run--decided him to wait. The "Black Bull" was a particularly
comfortable hotel and the landlady supplied tasty dinners; therefore
Halliday took the good the gods sent him and settled down for a quiet
evening. After a stroll to the shed to see that Vincent's creation was all
right he returned to the inn and went to bed. His nerves speedily relaxed,
and he slept deeply until nine o'clock in the morning. As he had invited
Penn to see him at eleven, he had just time to take his breakfast
comfortably, read the newspaper, and saunter out to breathe the fresh air
before his
visitor arrived. 

Marcus Penn had not improved in looks since Dan had last seen him.
His thin face was still yellow, his hair and moustache still scanty, and
he appeared to be as nervous as ever. When he sat down he looked
apprehensively at Halliday with his pale eyes, and passed his tongue over
his dry lips. It seemed to the aviator that Penn's conscience was not
quite at rest, else he would scarcely look so scared, when--on the face of
it--there was no need to do so. Dan, however, soon set him at his ease,
which was the first necessary step towards gaining his confidence.
For, unless that was gained the man assuredly would not mount
the aeroplane.

"How are you getting along, Mr. Penn?" said Halliday, genially. "Have a
cigarette and something wet? Oh, I forgot you don't drink so early in the
day. I am glad you are up to time, as I am just starting out on a fly."

"Really," remarked the secretary eagerly. "I should like to see you make a
start. Is your flying-machine near at hand?"

"In the shed over yonder, on the verge of the heath," said Dan, jerking
his head over his left shoulder; "but I daresay you wonder why I asked you
to see me, Mr. Penn?"

"Well, er--that is--er--I did wonder a trifle," hesitated the pale man,
and again looked anxious.

"It has to do with your literary ambitions," said Halliday slowly.

Penn flushed, looking both relieved on learning why he had been summoned
to the meeting and pleased that the subject should be of such personal
interest. "What do you know of my literary ambitions?" he asked doubtfully.

"All that Miss Moon could tell me," said Dan, promptly, and this was
absolutely correct, as Lillian had long ago asked him to aid the
secretary, although he had never troubled about the matter until now.

"Yes, I certainly did tell Miss Moon that I wished to become a novelist.
I found her sympathetic."

"Yes, she would be; she always is. I suppose," said Dan darting off at a
tangent, "that you are comfortable with Lord Curberry?"

"Oh, yes," assented the man, cheerfully. "I have good pay and little to
do, and Lord Curberry is very kind. I have plenty of time to write
my stories."

"Have you had any published?"

"No," sighed Penn, sadly, "I have tried again and again to get some short
tales printed, but so far, without success."

"Well, then, you know that I have a friend--Mr. Frederick Laurance--who is
on that newspaper 'The Moment'. I suggest that you should send me some of
your manuscripts for him to read. If he approves of them he will see what
he can do, as he knows nearly everyone of any note in the literary world."

"Oh, you are too good. I shall be delighted. All the same," Penn
hesitated, and writhed, "why should you do this for me?"

"It is Miss Moon who is doing this for you," rejoined Halliday, saying
what was perfectly true. "She asked me to help you. I suppose she comes
sometimes to Lord Curberry's house?"

"Oh, yes," said Penn, with a swift glance at him, "her uncle, Sir John,
and Miss Moon and Mrs. Bolstreath dined with Lord Curberry last week. I am
afraid, Mr. Halliday," added the secretary timidly, "that you will lose
Miss Moon."

Dan laughed cheerfully. "I don't think so. Why should I?"

"Her uncle is very anxious for her to marry Lord Curberry, who is also
very desirous to make Miss Moon his wife."

"That shows Curberry's good taste," said Halliday rising, and putting on
his cap. "However, she is to be my wife, and Curberry and Sir John can
go hang."

"I should not be so sure, Mr. Halliday," said Penn, in a mysterious
manner; "when Lord Curberry wants anything, he generally gets it."

"He is crying for the moon just now," said the other man, making a pun,
"and the moon is no man's property. However, I must go off to start for my
flying practice. I am going to compete in the London to York race next
week. Come with me and see me start. As to your stories, you can send them
to me at my old address, which you knew when you were with Sir Charles.
I shall see Mr. Laurance about them."

"You are good," murmured Penn, drawing a long breath and following Dan out
of the inn, "I am obliged to you."

"To Miss Moon, you mean. She is the one who takes an interest in your
literary efforts. But come along and see my machine. I got it from an
inventor called Vincent," and Dan turned suddenly to shoot an inquiring
glance at his companion. It occurred to him that Penn might have heard the
name since Penn had the perfume as well as Mrs. Jarsell, who knew the
inventor. But evidently Penn had not heard the name, for he gave no sign
of knowledge.

"I hope it is a good machine," he said innocently and weakly.

"Very good," said Halliday, as they halted near the great doors of the
shed, "a clipper. Why not try a fly with me?"

"Oh!" Penn shrank back. "I should be afraid."

"Nonsense, man!" joked the aviator while the aeroplane was wheeled out,
and the usual crowd of onlookers began to gather. "As a literary man you
ought to experience all sensation so as to write about it. Coming stories
will be full of flying-machines and airships."

"Isn't it dangerous?" asked Penn, looking at the delicate structure which
appeared almost too fragile to sustain one person, let alone two.

"Not at all, especially if one doesn't do any fancy flying, which I shall
avoid if you come with me."

"I should like to have the experience," hesitated the secretary, "that is
if you will not fly too high or too far."

"I'll take you across the heath and back again and will keep within a
tolerably safe distance from the ground."

"It's tempting," quavered Penn, wistfully, while Dan busied himself in
getting things square.

"Please yourself," rejoined Halliday carelessly, and satisfied that the
timid man was nibbling at the bait. "I can't stay here all day."
He slipped into the pilot's seat. "Well, well?"

"I really think I should like--where am I to sit?"

"In this place." Dan touched a spring and the pilot box of aluminium
lengthened out so that there was room for two people. This was one of
Vincent's improvements upon which he prided himself, as the vehicle could,
by adjusting the closed-in car, seat two people or one, as the need arose.
"But don't come, if you feel the least fear."

Those of the idle spectators close at hand grinned at Penn's pale face,
and he was stung into accepting hastily what he would have rejected in a
cooler moment. "I am not afraid," he said, trying to steady his voice, and
with an air of bravado he stepped in beside the aviator. "Oh, I say!"
he gasped.

And no wonder. Dan did not give him a moment to change his mind.
Having captured his prey, he intended to keep him, so set the engine going
almost before Penn was comfortably seated. In less time than it takes to
tell the aeroplane whirled along the ground swiftly and lifted herself
gracefully upward. Penn gasped again, and glanced down at the sinking
ground, where the spectators were already beginning to grow smaller.
But the motion of the biplane was so easy, and the face of her pilot so
composed, that after the first thrill of terror Penn began to feel that
flying was not such a very dangerous pastime as he had imagined.

"Wonderful, wonderful," he murmured, as the great artificial bird glided
smoothly through the air, "but don't--don't go too high, Mr. Halliday."

"I shall go high enough to smash you," said Dan, coolly. He was circling
in swallow flights round the heath, now high now low, now swift now slow,
and had the machine so entirely under command that he was enabled to give
a certain amount of his attention, though not all, to his companion.

Penn gasped again, and his terror revived. "Smash me! Oh!" he almost
shrieked.

"Yes," said Dan, not looking, since he had to watch where he was going,
but speaking rapidly and clearly all the same. "I want to know the truth
about that perfume. About the Sumatra perfume which you told me was
possessed alone by you. That was a lie, and you know it was a lie."

"I--I--I don't know anything about it," whimpered the secretary.

"Yes you do. Out with the truth," said Dan relentlessly, "if you don't I
shall drop you overboard to smash like an egg."

Penn clung to his seat desperately. "That would be murder."

"I daresay, but I shouldn't suffer. Accidents will happen in aeroplanes
you know. You are like Mahomet's coffin, slung between heaven and earth,
and overboard Mahomet's coffin will go in a few minutes, unless--" Dan
swerved the machine which tilted slightly and Penn went green with terror.

"What--what--what do you want to know?" he wailed, as the biplane dipped
nearly to earth, to sweep upward in a graceful curve.

"Who is Mrs. Jarsell?"

"I--oh, Lord--I don't know."

"You do. She has this perfume also. Has it anything to do with a gang?"

"Yes, yes." Penn's teeth were chattering, and the sinking motion made
him sick.

"What has it to do with a gang?"

"It's--it's a--a sign."

"Was Sir Charles murdered by this gang?"

"I don't know--I don't know. Oh!" Penn screamed and clutched again at the
side of the car.

"You do. This false Mrs. Brown belonged to the gang."

"I can't say. I daren't tell you. If I say anything I shall die."

"You shall die if you don't say what I want you to say," said Dan between
his teeth, and again the machine dipped and towered. "I'll tilt you out, I
swear, if you don't tell me who murdered Sir Charles."

"I don't know, I tell you," cried Penn desperately, "the perfume has to do
with a society of people, who--who--but I daren't speak. I should be
killed. I have said too much as it is. And if you reveal what I have said,
you will be killed also."

"I don't care. Is Mrs. Jarsell connected with this gang?"

"I don't know Mrs. Jarsell," said Penn sullenly, although his terrified
face showed that he was nearly frightened out of his wits.

"Do you belong to this--" started Dan, when a sudden action of Penn took
him by surprise. In endeavouring to frighten the man he had flown too low,
and the aeroplane was only six feet off the ground, preparing to swing
skyward again. The secretary, in desperation, flung himself sideways out
of the machine, as it curved at the lowest and fell heavily on the herbage
of the heath. Dan could not stop to see if he was safe or hurt, but soared
aloft again to a considerable height. Circling widely he came sailing
directly over the spot where the secretary had tumbled out in his
desperate endeavour to escape. Already the man had picked himself up and
was limping off toward the town as quickly as he was able.

"Now", said Dan grimly to himself, "he will have me arrested for attempted
murder. That's all right," and he chuckled contentedly, even though he had
not been entirely successful in his endeavour to make Penn confess.



Chapter X. ANOTHER MYSTERY

In his anxiety to learn the truth Dan was perfectly willing to be arrested
on whatever charge Penn might wish to bring against him. After all,
publicity was what he chiefly aimed at, and if he gave his reasons for
threatening the secretary, he felt confident that the man would find it
difficult to clear his character. Certainly Halliday had not intended to
take Penn's life, and had not the man been such a coward he would have
simply laughed at the idea of being tilted out of the machine. But his
nerves, shaken by the possible danger, had given way, and he had said much
which he would have preferred to keep locked up in his heart. But that the
aeroplane, by dipping so low, had afforded Penn the chance of escape at
the risk of a rough fall, he would have spoken at greater length. And yet,
after turning the matter over in his own mind, Dan could not be sure
of this.

But this much Halliday had learned. A gang assuredly existed, and the
perfume was a sign of recognition amongst the members, who apparently
followed each other's trails by scent. Penn declined to say if his late
employer had been done to death by the fraternity, but the perfume on the
dead man's clothes answered this question very positively. Also the
secretary had denied that the false Mrs. Brown belonged to the gang, a
statement which was absurd, as undoubtedly she was the emissary employed
to bring about the death. Finally, the fact that Mrs. Jarsell used the
Sumatra scent brought her into connection with the Hampstead crime
whatever Penn might say. For these reasons Dan felt that he had struck a
trail, which would end in the capture of Moon's assassin and the breaking
up of a dangerous organisation.

On reflection he concluded that Penn would have said very little more,
even though face to face with what he believed to be imminent death.
He had hinted sufficiently to show that revelation was dangerous not only
to himself but to Halliday, for if the gang learned that their secret was
betrayed, it was certain that death would be portioned out to the man who
heard, as well as to the man who spoke. On this assumption Dan felt
confident that Penn would take no action in the matter, and would probably
hold his tongue about the adventure. If he told any of the gang to which
he presumably belonged, he would have to admit that he had betrayed the
secret of the perfume, in which case he would assuredly be killed by his
unscrupulous associates. The death of Dan, as the young man believed,
would follow, but he also believed that by taking care of his own skin
Penn would remove any risk of vengeance following himself; therefore he
was not surprised when he heard nothing from Penn, or of Penn during the
days that passed before the morning of the great race. Meanwhile he
detailed the conversation to Laurance.

That young gentleman had returned to town with some regret since Mildred
Vincent was not by his side. But to assure himself of an early marriage by
securing a steady income, he flung himself into journalistic work with
redoubled energy, working night and day to gain an increased salary.
He was in his office employed on a political article when Dan presented
himself, and was not overpleased to give up even a moment of his precious
time. In fact, he grumbled.

"I wish you would come after business hours, Halliday," he said, testily.

"Oh, fudge!" retorted Dan, lightly. "A journalist hasn't any business
hours. Like a king, he is always in harness. Why do you require me to tell
you such elementary truths, Freddy?"

"I have an important article to write."

"Well, then, you can write it in ten minutes or so. I shan't keep
you long."

Laurance pushed away his writing paper, leaned back in his chair, and
reached for a cigarette. "What is it, then?" he asked resignedly.

Dan paced the office and related his adventure. "So you see, old son, that
the perfume is of great importance, as I always suspected."

Laurance nodded gravely. "It appears so. But if what you think is true,
would the man have disclosed a secret dangerous to his own safety?"

"People will disclose anything when on the rack," replied Dan with a
shrug, "and the aeroplane was my rack. The fool really believed that I
would tilt him overboard, and therefore said what he did say to save his
confounded skin. If he had not escaped so cleverly he would have
admitted more."

"I doubt it. From the hint he gave, if it was death for him not to confess
to you, because you could kill him, it was equally death for him to speak,
if his associates are prepared to murder him for babbling. However, we are
now quite certain that the gang alluded to by Sir Charles does exist.
Undoubtedly he was got out of the way since he knew too much."

"It is a pity he did not reveal his knowledge to Durwin."

"He intended to do so, but was murdered before Durwin arrived, as we know.
By the way, Durwin is as keen as we are over this search. I met him the
other day and he said that he was hunting everywhere for evidence. Why not
tell him what you have learned, Dan? He can make Penn speak out."

"Penn won't speak further," denied Dan abruptly. "I think, as it is, he
dreads the vengeance of his comrades."

"Durwin belongs to Scotland Yard, and has powers to drive Penn into a
corner, so he may be able to force confession. I think you should consult
with Durwin about the matter."

"After the race, then."

"Why not before the race, which does not take place for a couple of days?"

"I don't like doing things in a hurry," said Halliday, uneasily. "I want
to question Mrs. Jarsell, and see if she knows anything."

"If she does, which is doubtful, she will assuredly refuse to speak.
So far, I see no connection between her and the gang."

"You forget the perfume."

"H'm, yes," said Laurance meditatively, "perhaps you are right. I want to
have more evidence before I can give an opinion. But since Penn told you
so much, aren't you in danger from the gang yourself, Dan?"

"I think not. Penn, for his own sake, will hold his tongue. At all events
he has not moved so far."

"That doesn't say he won't move. I should examine that aeroplane very
carefully before the race, if I were you."

"Oh, I'll do that! I know the machine thoroughly by this time, and if it
has been tampered with I shall soon spot the trickery. Well, now that I
have brought you up to date with my information I shall leave you
to work."

"One moment. Is Miss Moon going to see you start for York?"

"Yes. I got a letter from her this morning. She and Mrs. Bolstreath come
to the aviation ground with Lord Curberry, confound him!" and frowning
angrily, Dan took his leave. He was anything but amiably disposed towards
his rival.

Everything was quiet as regards the criminal business for the next two
days, since Penn made no attempt to punish Dan for the fright he had given
him. Halliday himself was much too eager over the race to trouble about
the matter, but he kept a sharp eye on the Vincent machine, still stored
at Blackheath, so as to guard against any tampering. The start was to take
place at Blackheath, and on the appointed day five competitors were on the
spot surrounded by a large crowd of curious people anxious to witness the
conquest of the air. Amongst those present was Durwin, who pushed his way
to where Dan was looking over his aeroplane. The aviator did not see the
lean, keen-eyed man until he was touched on the elbow.

"Is it all right, Halliday?" asked Durwin, nodding towards the machine.

"Perfect. She's a beauty, and it won't be her fault if I don't lift York
Minster before sunset. What are you doing here, Mr. Durwin? I didn't know
that you took an interest in aviation."

"I take an interest in this search for Moon's assassin," said Durwin,
drily, but in low tones. "Laurance saw me and related your discovery. I am
looking about for Marcus Penn and intend to ask him questions."

"He may be on the ground," said Dan, glancing around, "since Lord
Curberry's place is a stone-throw away. But he won't speak."

"I'll make him speak," said Durwin with a grim look. "Well, I hope you'll
win, Halliday. When you return to town look me up. I may have something to
tell you," and he moved away with a significant look.

Dan could not leave his machine, or he would have followed, as there were
several questions which he greatly desired to ask. The day was cold and
dry, with few clouds, and a good deal of sunshine, so the conditions for
the race were fairly good. The wind was rather high, and that vexed the
aviators, as the art of flying is not yet so perfect as to control the
winds when they are over-strong. However, to go against these powerful
air-currents would be an excellent test of the qualities of the various
machines. The start was to take place at one o'clock, and the competitors
hoped to reach their destination before five o'clock. Some of the
aeroplanes could travel at forty miles an hour; others at fifty, but so
far as Dan knew, his was the sole machine which could gather
sixty-miles-an-hour speed. If Vincent could be believed, the aeroplane
ought to travel the hundred and eighty odd miles, if the conditions were
tolerably good, in a trifle over three hours. Dan, now having perfect
mastery of the biplane, hoped to accomplish the wonderful journey in a
shorter space of time. But this hope had yet to be verified.

Meanwhile, having seen that all was in order, he turned to speak to
Lillian who had just come up accompanied by Mrs. Bolstreath. Lord Curberry
was in attendance, and in the distance Dan caught a glimpse of the
yellow-faced secretary, looking unhappy and nervous.

"Oh, Dan, I do hope you will win!" cried Lillian, who looked extremely
pretty, but more than a trifle anxious; "it does seem so dangerous to fly
in such a light machine."

"She's the best I have yet struck," Dan assured her. "Don't you think
she's as perfect as Lillian, Mrs. Bolstreath?"

The elderly lady laughed and cast a side-glance at Curberry, to see how he
took Halliday's complimentary speech. "Well, I suppose you cannot think of
anything prettier to say. I have heard of a woman being compared to a
gazelle and to a ship, but never to a flying-machine."

"Mr. Halliday is very up to date in his compliments," said Curberry with a
slight sneer. He was a tall, bilious-looking man, with pale blue eyes and
a thin-lipped sinister mouth, not at all prepossessing in appearance,
although immaculate in dress.

Dan laughed. Being confident that Lillian would never marry this spectre,
he could afford to laugh. "We young people," he said, with emphasis, "go
with the times, Lord Curberry."

"Meaning that I belong to the past generation," retorted the other with a
flash in his pale eyes; "you will find that I don't in some ways," and he
glanced significantly at Lillian.

Mrs. Bolstreath looked nervous, but Miss Moon was supremely indifferent.
She did not care for Lord Curberry, and in spite of her uncle's advocacy
had not the slightest idea of marrying the man; therefore she ignored him
as consistently as she could considering the way he thrust himself into
her company. Without taking notice of this passage of arms, she began to
question her lover about the airship, and gathered quite a stock of
information before the start. Curberry, being ignorant of aviation, was
out of the picture, as the saying goes, so fumed and fretted and looked
daggers at Dan. It took all Mrs. Bolstreath's diplomacy to keep him in a
moderately good temper. Luckily Laurance strolled up, note-book in hand,
as he was reporting for "The Moment", and greeted the party gaily. He knew
Curberry slightly and nodded to him without any word or salutation.
In common with many other people, Freddy did not like the man, who was by
no means a popular character.

"Isn't it a splendid day for the race, Miss Moon," said Laurance, casting
an upward glance at the grey sky. "I look forward to chronicling Dan's
triumph in 'The Moment' to-morrow morning. Well, old fellow," he slapped
Halliday jovially on the back, "are you prepared for what Jules Verne
would call the very greatest journey of the century?"

"The century is yet young," replied Dan, drily, "and it's only one hundred
and eighty odd miles I have to travel. Considering that aviators have
reached a successful distance of five hundred miles this race is
a trifle."

"Well," said Lord Curberry, trying to be amiable--a hard task for him,
seeing how much Lillian was taken up with the hero of the
moment--"aviation has certainly accomplished wonders since Santos Dumont
took his flight of ten yards some four years ago."

"Oh, you do know something about aviation, Lord Curberry," said Dan coolly.

"I know that it is dangerous, Mr. Halliday."

"Oh, Dan." Lillian grew pale, knowing what the spiteful speech meant.

"I think flying looks more dangerous than it is," said Dan, with a
reassuring glance, "and Miss Moon has come here to be my mascot."

"You will wire your safe arrival as soon as you get to York," said Mrs.
Bolstreath anxiously.

"Oh, every one will wire," cried Freddy, taking out his field-glass, "the
telegraph offices will be kept hard at work all the night. As sure as I
stand here, Mrs. Bolstreath, Dan will be the richer to-morrow by 2,000."

"If he is safe, I shall be content," breathed Lillian, and she looked as
though she would have kissed Dan then and there, in spite of the presence
of the crowd and Lord Curberry.

That unsuccessful suitor scowled, and was about to make one of his acid
speeches, when the authorities arranging the race came to declare that all
was ready for the start. Already the cinematographs were at work taking
pictures of the crowd and the machines and their various pilots.
Policemen drove back the throng to some distance, so that the aeroplanes
might have a clear space to run in, and just as the hour of one sounded
the start was made amidst a breathless silence. The aeroplanes ran along
the ground like startled hens, and sprang into the air at various points.
The eyes of the people from looking level now began to stare upward at the
diminishing dots which towered and raced for the north. A zig-zag
monoplane was leading, but Lillian had only eyes for Dan's craft.
Freddy gave her his field-glasses so that she might get a better view.
Three of the aeroplanes bunched, but two circled away some distance in
wide arcs, and of the two, one machine belonged to Dan. The onlookers saw
him increase the speed of his propeller and then, like an arrow from the
bow, he sped swiftly out of sight in a straight line. A cheer rose from
the throng, as the Vincent biplane was leading by some lengths, and
Lillian gave Freddy back his glasses.

"I hope he'll come back safe," she said, with quivering lip.

"Of course he will," Laurance assure her. "Dan is one of the most cautious
aviators we have."

"But there is always a risk," sneered Lord Curberry.

"Probably. Only a brave man would take the risk."

"You don't fly yourself, Mr. Laurance."

"As you see," was the calm reply, as Curberry's enmity was too paltry to
trouble about. "Well, Miss Moon, we can't see anything more, so I suppose
you will go home."

"Miss Moon is coming to luncheon with me," said Lord Curberry, "and Mrs.
Bolstreath also."

"I am very hungry," said that lady pensively, "so I don't say--"

"Hallo!" interrupted Laurance, as a clamour arose on the outskirts of the
now fast diminishing crowd, "what's the matter? In the interests of my
paper I must see what is taking place," and with a hasty raising of his
hat to the ladies he left them to the care of Lord Curberry.

As he pushed his way towards the commotion he heard a voice asking if the
man was quite dead, and fancied that some one must have fallen down in a
fit. But when he broke through the ring of policemen, and beheld Durwin
lying on the ground, with staring eyes and a ghastly, expressionless face,
the sight so startled him that he caught a constable's arm.

"What's all this?" he demanded hoarsely. "Is Mr. Durwin dead?"

"Durwin," echoed the policeman sharply, "do you know the gentleman?"

"Of course. He is Mr. Durwin, one of the Scotland Yard officials. I wonder
you don't know that."

"I never heard of him, Sir. He must belong to the detective department."

"What's the matter with him; has he had a fit?"

"He's been murdered," said the constable, shortly.

"Murdered?" Laurance stared at the man in a horrified manner, and his
thoughts flew to the gang which he and Dan and Durwin were trying to root
out. Was this another crime similar to that committed at Hampstead, when
Sir Charles was killed for knowing too much? "Is there a fly on him?"
asked the reporter hastily, "see if there's a fly."

"A fly?" The policeman evidently thought the speaker was crazy. "What has
a fly to do with the matter? Here's the inspector, who was sent for some
time ago. You had better speak to him, Sir."

Laurance did so, and advanced towards the soldierly-looking official who
made his appearance. In a low and rapid voice, Laurance hastily explained
that the prone man was Mr. Durwin, of Scotland Yard, and also handed the
inspector his own card. Meanwhile a doctor was examining the body, and
found that the deceased had been murdered by having a dagger thrust under
his left shoulder-blade. He was quite dead, and must have passed away
almost immediately the blow was delivered. The inspector received this
uncompromising statement with natural surprise, and knelt down beside the
corpse to verify the declaration. There was no doubt that the medical man
spoke the truth, for a stream of blood stained the back of Durwin's coat,
and had soaked into the ground. The thrust must have been made with a very
sharp instrument, and was undoubtedly delivered with great force.

"Who knows anything of this?" demanded the inspector, rising and looking
at the awe-struck faces of the crowd sharply.

A slim lady-like girl stepped forward. "I was standing close to the
gentleman," she explained nervously, "and we were all looking at the
airships as they went away. I heard him give a gasp, and when I turned at
the the sound, he was slipping to the ground. That's all I know."

"Did you see any one strike him?"

"No, I didn't. How could I, when with the rest I was staring at the
airships going away. The gentleman was staring also, I think. But of
course I didn't take much notice of him, as he was a stranger to me."

"I saw him fall," put in a rough man, something like a navvy; "he was
crushed up against me in the crowd, and I felt him tumbling. I heard him
gurgle, too, and heard this young lady cry out. Then I saw him on the
ground, and pushed back the folk, saying there was a cove dying. "But I
didn't think it was murder," ended the man, shuddering.

"Nor did I," chimed in the slim girl. "I fancied it was a fit. I'm sure we
were all so crushed up with the lot of people, that I shouldn't have been
surprised if he had taken a fit."

This was all that could be learned, and the inspector took the names and
addresses of the two who had spoken. There were other people who had noted
the man on the ground, but these were the sole ones to see the fall.
They had, as it were, almost caught the assassin red-handed. But it was
impossible to say who was guilty, for the throng was so dense and every
one's attention had been so earnestly fixed skyward on the airships that
no one could say who had struck down the unfortunate gentleman.
The inspector was much impressed when he learned the identity of the dead
man. Once or twice he had received official letters from Durwin, but he
had never set eyes on him until he beheld him dead. But for Laurance he
would not have known who he was, and therefore questioned that young
gentleman closely when the body was carried by four policemen off the
ground to the nearest place where it could be placed under shelter.

"And what about this fly?" asked the inspector, having heard of the
question from the policeman to whom Laurance had spoken.

"Don't you remember the case of Sir Charles Moon?"

"Yes. The woman who killed him was never discovered. I remember about the
fly, and also I remember the letters written to that newspaper of yours."

"I wrote the first letter that brought forth the correspondence," said
Freddy quickly. "Sir Charles had some idea that a gang of criminals was in
existence, and invited Mr. Durwin to his house to explain. Before Mr.
Durwin arrived Sir Charles was murdered. Since then he had been looking
into the matter, and I believe that he also learned too much."

"You think that this gang you mention had him put out of the way?"

"Yes, I do, and that is why I asked if there was a fly on him. It's the
trade-mark of these devils, I fancy."

"Well, there didn't appear to be any fly on him," said the inspector, in
an uneasy tone. "All the same, I think your idea is right. Moon was
murdered because he knew too much, and Mr. Durwin has been got out of the
way for the same reason; at least, I think so. However, we shall learn
more between this and the inquest. You will attend, Mr. Laurance?"

"Of course. I am only too anxious to find out all I can about this
dangerous gang. It must be broken up."

"The breaking up will be attended with considerable danger," said the
inspector, in a very dry tone. Then he noted Freddy's address and let
him go.

Laurance returned to the office of "The Moment" and hastily wrote his
description of the start for the London to York race, after which he saw
the editor and related what he knew about the death of Durwin. Permitted
to write the article dealing with the subject, Laurance gave a concise
account, and although he did not say too much, yet hinted very plainly
that the death of the Scotland Yard official was connected indirectly with
the murder of Sir Charles Moon. Remembering that Penn was now Lord
Curberry's secretary, and that Lord Curberry's house was near the aviation
ground, Freddy wondered if Penn had been amidst the crowd. Dan could have
told him that he had been; but, at present, Laurance did not know this.
However, he had a shrewd idea that as Penn was connected with one murder,
he was probably connected with the other. Then Freddy cursed himself for
not having observed if there was any special perfume hanging about the
dead man's clothes. As he did not know the particular smell of the Sumatra
scent he would not be able to say if it was the one Dan had traced to Mrs.
Jarsell, but if there was any scent at all, it was worth while looking
into the matter. To repair his negligence he finished writing the article
--which was very short--and then started for Blackheath to view the
corpse again.

As he was leaving the office of the paper a telegram was put into his
hand. It proved to be from Dan, and had been sent from Bedford. "Had an
accident," ran the wire, "rudder broke. No bones broken, but shaken by
fall. I return this evening to town and will call.--HALLIDAY."

"Now I wonder," murmured Laurance, when he read the telegram, "if that
machine was tampered with, after all. If so, the gang must be getting
scared. First Moon, then Durwin, now an attempt on Dan's life. By Jove,
I'll be the next." The idea was by no means a pleasant one.



Chapter XI. ON THE TRAIL

When Dan, looking rather pale and sick, presented himself at The Moment
office late that same evening, the first question Laurance put to him was
relative to the accident. "Was your machine tampered with?" asked Freddy,
in a breathless manner, and almost immediately the door was closed.

"No, it wasn't," replied Halliday, sinking with a tired sigh into the
nearest chair. "I was making a quick turn and the rudder gave way; I put
too great a strain on it, and came fluttering to the ground like a shot
partridge. That was a few miles beyond Bedford. However, I had the
aeroplane dismounted and packed away in a village close at hand, then
after a rest caught the express to St. Pancras. You got my wire?"

"Yes, and I fancied this tumble must be the work of the gang."

"Not a bit of it. My bad flying, that's all. Well, I have lost the race,
and the man who flew the Zig-zag monoplane has won, though he took his own
time in arriving at York. A dashed bad machine I think he had, even though
it's come out top for the time being. I'm a bit shaken, and feel sick, but
a night's rest will put me square."

"Why didn't you go straight home and get it?" inquired Freddy anxiously,
for there was no denying that Dan looked considerably fagged.

"I read about this death of Durwin in a late edition of an evening paper,
and couldn't rest until I knew the truth. The paper only gave a hint.
Tell me what you know."

Laurance did so, and then handed Halliday a proof of his article on the
subject which was to appear in the morning issue of "The Moment".
He supplemented the same with further information.

"I went down to see if there was any scent on the clothes of the corpse,"
he explained, "it's still at Blackheath, you know, in charge of the
inspector. There's no perfume, anyhow."

"And no fly?"

"No. I asked that the moment I saw Durwin stretched out on the ground.
If this crime is the work of the gang, the sign-manual is absent."

"All the same it is the work of the gang, I truly believe," remarked Dan,
in grim tones. "Durwin has been on the hunt, and very probably, since he
discovered the death of Moon first of all, he has been watched. One of the
gang got behind him in the crowd, and knifed him in the crush. It would be
perfectly easy for the assassin to slip away, without being noticed, since
everyone was watching the flight of the aeroplanes."

Laurance nodded. "I agree with you. But who is the assassin?"

"Well," said Dan, reflectively, "I saw Penn on the ground."

"The deuce you did!" cried Freddy jumping up; "did he--"

"Don't be in too great a hurry. He seems to me much too nervous a man to
handle this job."

"But he belongs to the gang," insisted Laurance, sharply. "He has as good
as admitted that much by what he said of the perfume."

"Oh yes, I believe he has something to do with the association, which, by
the way, appears to be a kind of joint-stock company, like that one
mentioned by Balzac in his story 'Histoire des Treize', and--"

"Oh, hang your literary references!" interrupted Freddy, anxiously pacing
the office, "do you believe that Penn struck the blow?"

"No, I don't. The gang must have better men than he to strike."

"Or women," muttered Laurance, thinking of the false Mrs. Brown.
"However, since Penn was in the crowd, and is plainly in the secret of the
gang, don't you think we ought to tell the Blackheath inspector about the
matter, and also Inspector Tenson, who had charge of the Hampstead crime?"

"No," said Dan, after a pause. "If Penn is arrested and questioned, he
will say nothing. As he hinted, he would be killed if he gave away the
gang; so as he wouldn't split, when I threatened him on the aeroplane, he
certainly won't speak out if questioned by the police. And we haven't got
enough evidence to prove his complicity, remember. Better keep silence,
Freddy, and let the police get at the truth by themselves. Meanwhile, we
can look round and keep an eye on Penn."

After some argument, Laurance agreed to act as his friend suggested. It
was no doubt the wiser course to take no action until absolute proof could
be procured that the secretary was a member of the gang. Also, if Penn
were arrested, the organisation might break up and scatter out of sheer
alarm, in which case all the villains would not be caught. Dan deemed it
best to work quietly until the whole of the scoundrels could be netted,
and to do so it was necessary to preserve silence. Thus it came about
that, at the inquest on Durwin, nothing came to light likely to connect
this crime with the preceding one. The hint given by Freddy in "The
Moment" was not taken, and, indeed, was laughed at. There was neither
perfume nor fly on the corpse of the unfortunate man, and consequently no
link between Blackheath and Hampstead. An open verdict was brought in, and
Durwin was buried without the truth becoming known in any detail. Then a
new sensation took up the attention of the public.

Nevertheless, both Dan and his friend were convinced that Durwin, having
learned too much, had been done to death by the gang for its own safety in
the same way as Sir Charles Moon had been removed. They employed a private
detective to watch Penn, but gave him no hint that they suspected him in
any way. Through Penn, who was the sole person they knew for certain--and
on the evidence of the perfume was connected with the gang--they hoped to
arrive at the truth, but the time was not yet ripe for questioning him as
regarded his nefarious doings. But they kept him well in sight so as to
watch the path he took in life. There was no doubt that by following the
same they would arrive at a gathering of the dangerous person, whose
association threatened to disintegrate society. As Dan, quoting Balzac's
fiction, had observed, it was Ferragus and his fellow-conspirators in a
modern setting.

Dan, having lost the race, and consequently the 2,000, was short of
funds, and Laurance not being rich could not lend him any money.
However, the two managed to borrow a certain sum from a grasping
money-lender, which supplied the sinews of war for the time being, and
Halliday had the Vincent aeroplane brought to Blackheath again, and made
some money in his usual way by taking various people trips for short
distances. Aviation was now quite a Society craze, especially for ladies
desirous of a new sensation, so Dan did extremely well. A few months later
he intended to attempt a cross-Channel flight, for which a French
millionaire was offering a large prize, but in the meantime he got along
as best he could. Nothing happened for a week or two, likely to stir up
the muddy water which concealed the doings of the gang, and there were no
new murders. Then Dan took Lillian to a cinematograph exhibition, and made
a discovery.

Of course Lillian was profoundly grieved that her lover should have lost
the race, but comforted herself with the reflection that he was safe.
Had she been able, she would have interdicted Dan from trying further
flights, especially in the face of the many accidents which were occurring
in connection with aviation all over the world. Dan, however, laughed at
her fears, and insisted upon continuing his dangerous vocation.
Nevertheless, he promised in a moment of tenderness, to give up aviation
when he and Lillian were married, though at present affairs in this
direction did not look bright. As yet Dan had discovered very little
likely to lead to the detection of Moon's assassin, and until that
individual was brought to justice, Sir John would never consent to the
match. The course of true love in these dark days was by no means running
so smoothly as the pair desired.

Lord Curberry haunted Sir John Moon's house, and pestered Lillian with
undesired attentions until she was openly rude to him. But this did not at
all damp his ardour; he merely smiled acidly and continued to send flowers
and theatre seats, and lastly articles of jewellery, which she declined to
accept. And always Sir John was at her elbow, croaking out what a lucky
girl she was to attract the attention of the peer. With her money and his
title, to say nothing of his talents, the marriage would be an ideal one.
Lillian did not agree, and with the obstinacy of a woman in love with the
wrong person, preferred to think of, and long for, Dan Halliday. More than
that, with the connivance of Mrs. Bolstreath, who was heart and soul with
the poor suitor, Lillian contrived to meet him at various times, and enjoy
herself not a little. On these occasions they were like children let loose
from an over-severe nursery. Sometimes, Mrs. Bolstreath came as chaperon,
and sometimes, knowing that Dan was a gentleman, she allowed them to be
together, solus and alone, which, naturally, they liked much better. But
on the whole, and so that no one might talk, the good-natured, smiling
woman followed their restless footsteps to restaurants and
theatres--matinees, that is--even to cinematographs. It was at one of
these last entertainments that Dan received a shock.

On this particular occasion, Mrs. Bolstreath was not with them, as she had
gone shopping in Regent Street. An appointment had been made by her to
meet Lillian and Dan at five, when the trio intended to have afternoon tea
in New Bond Street. Meantime, as it was only three o'clock, the lovers had
the whole of London to themselves. The day was rather fine, so Lillian
proposed to go to the unfashionable spaces of the park, where she was not
likely to meet with any acquaintance. Dan was willing, and they walked
along Piccadilly in a leisurely manner. Then Lillian stumbled on a
biograph theatre, and read the programme. When she saw that a set of
pictures represented the aviation ground at Blackheath, and the start for
the London to York race, nothing would serve her whim, but that she must
go in and see the film. Dan was willing to oblige her, as he also was
curious to see himself in a moving-picture. Therefore, they soon found
themselves being guided by an attendant with an electric-torch, through
the warm darkness of the hall to a couple of well-cushioned seats.
The performance was a continuous one, the pictures repeating themselves
again and again, so the lovers arrived in the middle of an interesting
story of which they did not know the beginning. Anxious to see what had
gone before, Lillian exacted a promise from her complaisant swain that
they should wait until the repetition. Dan agreed, but reminded her that
this delay would mean no walk in the park.

"Never mind," said Lillian, slipping her hand into his under cover of the
friendly twilight, "we can stay here until we meet Bolly in New Bond
Street; you know I adore cinematographs."

"And me also I hope," insinuated Dan, to which the answer was a friendly
and very emphatic squeeze.

As is usual with such entertainments the pictures were a mixture of comedy
and tragedy, so as not to dwell too long on one note. But Lillian, in an
impatient mood, waited anxiously for the aviation scenes. These were in
due time thrown on the screen, and the girl gave a little cry of pleasure
when she saw Dan tinkering at his aeroplane, every gesture being
faithfully reproduced. Halliday himself was greatly amused by this
resurrection of his doing, and felt an odd feeling at coming face to face
with himself in this way. Then he started, greatly surprised, for in front
of the crowd, and disproportionately large in comparison with the rest of
the figures, he beheld the massive form of Mrs. Jarsell moving across the
illuminated picture. She even paused to look round at someone in the mob,
so he had a distinct front view of her powerful face. There could be no
mistake, as she was a singularly noticeable woman, and when she finally
passed away from the screen, he sat wondering at the odd chance which had
shown him that she had been on the Blackheath aviation ground on the very
day and about the very time Durwin had met with his mysterious death.
Her presence suggested the possession of the Sumatra scent perfume, which
in its turn recalled Penn's ownership of the same, and the scent of the
dead Sir Charles Moon's clothes. More than ever Dan was convinced that
Mrs. Jarsell was connected with the gang, and therefore with the two
tragedies which were perplexing justice. He was glad that he had promised
to wait for the repetition, and when Lillian wished to go, after she had
seen the start of the picture, which had met them half-finished on their
entrance, Dan urged her to stop and witness the aviation scenes once more.

"It is so amusing to see oneself in this way," said Dan, artfully.

Lillian pouted. "I wish I could have been taken also," she said with a
sigh of pleasure, and willingly consented to wait.

The second view convinced Halliday absolutely that he was right. It was
Mrs. Jarsell who moved so royally across the screen, and what puzzled him
was that she appeared to be well dressed, without any attempt at disguise.
Yet, if she had come to Blackheath bent upon crime, she would surely have
worn a veil, so as not to be noticed. Still, Mrs. Jarsell, living a
secluded life at Sheepeak, would not be known to anyone in London, and
might not think it necessary to disguise herself in any way. Moreover, if
by chance she was recognised through any possible disguise, such a thing
would mean the asking of leading questions. However, there was no doubt
that she had been on the aviation ground when Durwin was murdered, and Dan
determined to go that same night to Sheepeak and make inquiries. He was
very silent when at the afternoon tea with the ladies, but Lillian
chattered enough for two, and gave Mrs. Bolstreath a vivid account of the
animated pictures. The companion certainly did hint that Halliday was not
quite himself, but he averted further inquiries by saying that he had a
headache. Then he took leave of the pair, and went to see what train he
could catch to Thawley, being in so great a hurry that he did not even
call on Freddy Laurance to acquaint him with his wonderful discovery.

Thus Halliday most unexpectedly found himself standing on the Thawley
Station platform a few minutes after nine o'clock, as he had left St.
Pancras by the six o'clock express. It was now too late to travel by the
local to Beswick, for when he reached that place there was the long hill
to climb to Sheepeak, and the Peacock Hotel would probably be closed by
the time he got to his destination. Dan therefore decided to remain in
Thawley for the night, and secured a bed at an hotel near the station.
Early next morning he came to look for George Pelgrin, with whom he wished
to talk, and had no difficulty in finding him. A brother-porter brought
the man to him, and handing over his bag, Halliday requested to be led to
the platform whence the Beswick local departed. Then he began to ask
artful questions.

Pelgrin was a big bovine creature, with sleepy blue eyes, and a slow,
ponderous manner, which argued small intelligence. Dan wondered why a
clever woman like Mrs. Jarsell should interest herself in such a creature,
and to find out cautiously introduced the lady's name. "I was staying at
your aunt's hotel in Sheepeak some time ago," said Dan, as George carried
his bag over the bridge, "and she told me that you are quite a favourite
with my friend, Mrs. Jarsell of The Grange."

"Aye," grinned George amiably, "that I be, Sir. I come from Sheepeak, and
Mrs. Jarsell she takes interest in Sheepeak folk. "send for George," she
says, when coming to London, and I puts her straight as she likes."

"She comes to town pretty often I expect," said Halliday, lightly, "which
is all the better for your pocket."

"Why, no," said Pelgrin, thoughtfully, "she don't go away much from
Sheepeak, not even to come to Thawley. Once in a few months she goes to
London to see things. "George," she says, "I'm going to look up friends,"
or "George, I'm after lawyer's business this day," she says. Oh, she's
good to me and Aunt Marian, is Mrs. Jarsell. I wish she'd come to London
oftener," ended George in dismal tones, "for she gives me half-a-crown
always, and don't come as often as I'd like, seeing as I wants money."

"Ah, she's a stay-at-home," commented Halliday.

"Looking after that friend of hers, Miss Armour, she is," agreed George.

"Well, she has been a good friend to me," said the other man, stepping
lightly into a first-class compartment, "for she got me an aeroplane from
Mr. Vincent."

"Aye," said Pelgrin, "I know him. Crosspatch he is, Sir."

"I think so, too. But Mrs. Jarsell promised to come to London and see me
in the London to York race. You heard of it, I suppose."

"Aye, that I did," said Pelgrin, and mentioned the exact date, "we'd a
heap of traffic that day, folk going to York to see them airships arrive.
But Mrs. Jarsell wasn't one of them, Sir."

"She wouldn't go to York, but to London."

"She didn't go nowhere," said George doggedly, "on that day anyhow. "Send
for George," she always says, and on the day of that flying-race send for
me she did not. So she stayed at home, I reckon."

"Oh," Dan looked disappointed. "I did so want her to see me flying in this
race, Pelgrin, since she got Mr. Vincent to give me the aeroplane."

"Well, she didn't see you, Sir, for she never went to London on that day
early or late, I swear. She don't go much away from Sheepeak, and hasn't
been there--to London that is, Sir--for months. And she always tips me
half-a-crown," ended George once more.

Dan took the hint and handed over the money. "There you are. And I hope
Mrs. Jarsell will travel oftener so that you may become rich."

"Aye, I need money, me being engaged as it were," said Pelgrin, with a
grin, touching his forelock, and he went on explaining his private
affairs, which had to do with a girl, until the train steamed out of
the station.

Dan was puzzled. According to the cinematograph Mrs. Jarsell had certainly
been in town on the day of the race, yet this yokel swore that she had not
travelled from the Thawley station. Yet there was no other route by which
she could come. Of course, according to Mrs. Pelgrin, the woman owned
three motors and could go to London in that way. There was just a chance
that she might have done so, but Dan did not know how he was to find out.
It would be no use asking Mrs. Jarsell, as she would deny having been out
of Sheepeak. Yet since she was wholly undisguised on the Blackheath
ground, why should she deny her identity? It might be that she would admit
having gone to the big city--say by motor--and would defy him to credit
her with the death of Durwin. Not that Dan would be foolish enough to
accuse her of the same, as he had no evidence to bring forward, save the
fact of the perfume, and that was a weak reed upon which to lean.
Mrs. Pelgrin might know something, however, and to Mrs. Pelgrin he
determined to apply for information.

At the end of his journey, and when he arrived in a ramshackle fly, he was
welcomed by her as usual--that is, she bounced out of the inn, and placing
her arms akimbo, smiled grimly. "Oh, so you are here again," she said in
exactly the same way in which she had greeted Laurance.

"Yes," said Halliday readily, having his excuse cut and dried, "I lost the
flying race, and have come to apologise to Mr. Vincent for misusing his
machine. I only want a midday meal, as I leave again this afternoon."

"You shall have your dinner," snapped Mrs. Pelgrin, leading the way into
the inn after Dan had arranged for the driver of the trap to wait for
three or four hours. "So you didn't win that race. Aye, Mr. Vincent will
be rare mad with you, thinking what he does of those kites he makes."

Halliday sat down in the well-remembered room and laughed. "The fortune of
war, Mrs. Pelgrin. But I am sorry I lost the race, Mrs. Jarsell, who got
me the aeroplane, will also be disappointed. Did she tell you about
the start?"

"Eh! man, would a lady like her come chattering to a humble body like me?"
was the landlady's reply, as she laid the table rapidly, "not that she saw
the race, mind you, Mr. Halliday."

"Oh, but she must have," replied Dan, with pretended surprise, "she
promised to come and see me start from Blackheath."

"She did not go to London," persisted Mrs. Pelgrin, her eyes becoming
angry at the contradiction, "I mind that well, because she came to see me
about some eggs on the very day you were flying, and, says she, 'It will
be a good day for Mr. Vincent's machine to win the race.'"

"Are you sure?" asked Dan, more puzzled than ever to find that the stories
of Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew were in accordance with one another.

"Do you take me for a fool?" cried Mrs. Pelgrin, her sallow face becoming
a fiery red; "am I not telling you again and again that Mrs. Jarsell never
went to see your rubbishy race? She came here to get some eggs from me,
and sat in this very room at nine o'clock, or a little after. You take me
for a liar, you--you--oh, I'll best see to the dinner, or I'll lose my
temper," and the sharp-tongued woman, having already lost it, bounced out
of the room.

"Mrs. Jarsell was here at nine o'clock, or a little after," repeated Dan,
in a wondering tone, "then she could not have been in London. All the
same, I swear I saw her on that cinematograph." Here he opened his bag and
took out an "A.B.C.", to see the trains from Thawley to London.

An examination showed him that, even if Mrs. Jarsell had left Thawley
Station at nine o'clock exactly, she would not have reached St. Pancras
until twelve-five. This would scarcely give her time to arrive at
Blackheath. The aeroplanes had started in the race at one o'clock, and,
according to the evidence at the inquest the people had been looking at
them flying northward at the moment Durwin was stabbed. Mrs. Jarsell could
hardly have arrived on the ground by one o'clock if she only got to St.
Pancras at mid-day. And then, to do that, she would have been obliged to
leave Thawley at nine o'clock. According to George she had not been near
the station on that day, and if Mrs. Pelgrin was to be believed, she was
in the very room he now occupied at the hour when the express departed.
It was clearly impossible that she could have got to Thawley for the nine
o'clock train, let alone it being impossible that had she caught the
express she could have arrived in London in time to execute the crime by
one o'clock, or a trifle later. Yet, on the one hand, was the evidence of
Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew, while on the other hand was the evidence of
the cinematograph. One or the other must assuredly be wrong. Of course the
landlady and George might be telling lies, but on the face of it there was
no need for them to do so. Moreover, as Dan had sprung his questions on
them unexpectedly, they could not have been ready with false answers.

"She must have used a motor-car," thought Halliday, restoring the "A.B.C."
to his bag, "yet even so, she was here at nine o'clock, and could not have
reached town in the three hours and odd minutes. D-- it!"

Mrs. Pelgrin brought in the dinner with compressed lips and showed small
disposition to chatter. Anxious not to arouse her suspicions by asking any
further questions, Dan began to talk of other matters, and gradually she
became more friendly. He told her that he had employed George and had
given him half-a-crown, since the mention of money appeared to melt her
into civility more than did anything else. Mrs. Pelgrin smiled grimly, and
observed that "George was a grasping hound," an amiable speech which did
not argue that she was on the best of terms with the sleepy-eyed man at
Thawley Station. After Dan had learned indirectly all he could from her he
sought out Vincent's cottage, only to learn that the inventor and his
niece were absent for the day. As he could frame no excuse to visit Mrs.
Jarsell there was nothing left for him to do but to travel back to town;
therefore he found himself once more in St. Pancras Station, comparatively
early in the evening, wondering what was the solution of this new problem.



Chapter XII. AN AMAZING ADVENTURE

Next day Dan went to look up Laurance and have a consultation, as he was
considerably puzzled over the new problem and did not know exactly how to
act. But Fate was against him, so far as having a second opinion was
concerned, for Laurance proved to be absent. An anarchistic plot, of which
"The Moment" desired to know the details, had taken him to Vienna, and it
was probable that he would not return for at least a week. Halliday might
have expected something of the sort, as in the prosecution of his business
Freddy was here, there, and everywhere, never knowing his next
destination, which depended entirely on the latest sensation. But hitherto
few startling events had summoned Laurance out of England, and Dan had
been accustomed to finding him always on the spot for a consultation.
He left the office of "The Moment" in a rather disconsolate frame of mind.

There was no doubt that Halliday badly needed someone to talk to about the
matters which occupied his thoughts. But, failing Freddy, who was working
alongside him, he did not know any one worth consulting--any one, that is,
whose advice would be worth taking.

Certainly there were the two inspectors of police--one at Hampstead and
one at Blackheath--who were deeply interested in the respective deaths of
Moon and Durwin. They would have been delighted to discuss the entire
business threadbare in the hope of solving the mystery of the two crimes.
But Dan did not wish to bring the police into the matter until he had more
evidence to go upon. After all, what he knew concerning Mrs. Jarsell and
Penn was both vague and uncertain, while the clue of the perfume being so
slight might be scouted as ridiculous by these cut-and-dried officials.
What Halliday wished to do was to establish a connection between the
doings at Sheepeak, Blackheath, and Hampstead on evidence that could not
be questioned, so that he might submit a complete case to the police.
He could not do this until he acquired positive proof, and he desired to
acquire the same by his own endeavours supplemented by those of Laurance.
Therefore, as Freddy was away on business, and Dan did not care about
placing his unfinished case before the inspectors, he went about his
ordinary affairs, waiting for his friend's return. This was all that he
could do, and he did it reluctantly.

A hint from Lord Curberry had evidently made Sir John more vigilant as
regarded his niece. Dan called at the house and was denied an interview;
he wrote a letter and received no answer; and although he haunted Bond
Street and Regent Street, the park and the theatres, he could catch no
glimpse of Lillian. After three days of unavailing endeavour he went to
Bedford and attended to the transfer of his aeroplane to Blackheath,
bringing it up in the train personally. Then he put it together again, and
took short flights in the vicinity of London, after repairing the damage
done to the rudder. All the same, his heart was not in the business of
aviation at the moment, as the detective fever had seized him, and he felt
that he could not rest until he had solved the mystery of the two crimes.
But at the moment, he saw no way by which he could advance towards a
consummation of his wishes, and simply fiddled away his time until the
return of Laurance. Then, after a threshing out of details, he hoped to
make some sort of move in the darkness.

But Fate decreed that he should act alone and without advice, and the
intimation of Fate's intention came in the form of a short letter from
Marcus Penn, asking for an interview. "I am confident," wrote the
secretary, "that from what you threatened in the aeroplane you suspect me
of knowing something relative to Sir Charles Moon's murder. As I am
entirely innocent, I resent these suspicions, and I wish you to meet me in
order that they should be cleared away. If you will meet me at the
booking-office of the Bakerloo Tube, I can take you to the person who gave
me the perfume. He will be able to tell you that I have no connection with
any one criminal." Then the letter went on to state day and hour of the
appointment, and ended with the feeble signature of the writer. Dan always
thought that Penn's signature revealed only too plainly the weakness of
his character.

Of course he intended to go, even though he remembered that Penn had
declared the identity of the person who had given him the perfume.
His cousin in Sumatra had sent the same to him, the secretary had said,
yet he now proposed to introduce Dan to another person, who was the donor
of the scent. Unless, indeed--and this was possible--the Sumatra cousin
had come to England with the intention of exonerating Penn.
Certainly, Penn might mean mischief, and might be dexterously luring him
into a trap. But Halliday felt that he was quite equal to dealing with a
timid personality such as the secretary possessed. Also, when going to
keep the appointment, he slipped a revolver into his hip-pocket, to be
used if necessary. It might be--and Dan's adventurous blood reached fever
heat at the mere idea--that Penn intended to introduce him to his brother
scoundrels, who constituted this mysterious gang. If so, there was a very
good chance that at last he might learn something tangible concerning the
organisation. Undoubtedly there was a great risk of his losing liberty, if
not life, and it was impossible to say what precautions this society of
cut-throats might take to preserve its secrets. But Halliday was not of a
nervous nature, and, moreover, was willing to risk everything on one cast
of the die, instead of lingering in suspense. He therefore got himself
ready without saying a word to anyone, and kept the appointment.
And, indeed, now that Laurance was absent, there was no one to whom he
could speak.

It chanced to be a somewhat foggy night when Dan descended to the
underground in Trafalgar Square, but out of the darkness and in the light
he had no difficulty in recognising Penn. The secretary was well wrapped
up in a heavy great-coat, and welcomed the young man with a nervous smile,
blinking his pale eyes furiously, as was his custom when much moved.
However, he spoke amiably enough, and appeared to bear no malice against
his companion, notwithstanding the threat in the aeroplane.

"I am glad you have come, Mr. Halliday," said Penn, in a would-be
dignified tone, "as I wish to clear my character from the grave doubts you
cast upon it when we last met."

"Your admissions favoured the grave doubts," retorted Dan lightly.

"I spoke foolishly, Mr. Halliday, as I was quite upset by your threats."

"H'm! I wonder to see you trust yourself again with such a bloodthirsty
being as I am, Mr. Penn."

"Oh, I knew you were only bluffing in the aeroplane," said the secretary,
in a meek voice and with a shrug.

"The means you took to escape further questioning showed me that!"

The dry tone of Dan stirred the man's chilly blood to greater heat.
"You have no right to interfere with my private affairs," he
said, furiously.

"But when those affairs have to do with a crime--"

"They have not. I know nothing about the matter," Penn's breath was short,
and he tried to keep his voice from quavering. "When you see my cousin he
will prove that he gave me the scent."

"Oh! then your Sumatra cousin is now in England?"

"Yes! Otherwise, I should not have asked you to come."

"Are we to meet him here?" questioned Dan, glancing round curiously.

"No. We can go to him in a taxi. I thought of the Tube first, but we can
get to our destination quicker in a motor. Come!" and Penn, leading the
way, ascended the stairs down which Halliday had lately come.

"Where are we going to?" asked Dan, but the secretary, being some distance
ahead, either did not hear the question, or did not desire to reply to the
same. "I suppose," added Halliday, as the two stood once more in the foggy
upper-world, "that your cousin wishes to see Mrs. Jarsell?"

"My cousin doesn't know Mrs. Jarsell, neither do I," retorted Penn,
sharply.

"Curious that she should possess the perfume," murmured Dan, sceptically,
"and one which you say is unique."

"In England that is," said the secretary, as they stepped into a taxi-cab
which evidently was waiting for them, near the Trafalgar Square lions,
"but this lady whose name you mention may know someone in Sumatra also,
and in that way the perfume may have come into her possession."

"Ah!" Dan made himself comfortable, while Penn pulled up the windows of
the taxi, so as to keep out the damp air, "the long arm of coincidence?"

"The improbably usually occurs in real life and not in novels,
Mr. Halliday."

Dan laughed and watched the street lights flash past the blurred windows
as the taxi turned up the Haymarket. He wondered where they were going,
and as he believed that Penn would not give him any information he
carefully watched to see the route. His companion adjusted his silk
muffler well over his mouth, with a murmured explanation about his weak
lungs, and then held out a silver cigarette case to Dan, clicking it open
as he did so.

"Will you smoke, Mr. Halliday?"

"No, thank you," replied the other, cautiously, "for the present, I don't
care about it," and Penn shrugged his shoulders, evidently understanding
that Dan did not trust him or his gifts. After a time he took out a
cigarette and lighted a match.

"These cigarettes are of a particular kind," he remarked, and blew a cloud
of smoke directly under Halliday's nose, after which he readjusted the
muffler, not only over his mouth, but over his nose.

Dan started, for the whiff of smoke filled the close confinement of the
taxi with the well-known flavour of the Sumatra scent. He was about to
make a remark when the scent grew stronger as the cigarette burned
steadily with a red, smouldering tip, and he felt suddenly faint. "Pull
down the window," he gasped, and leaned forward to do so himself.

For answer, Penn suddenly pulled the young man back into his seat, and
enveloped him in a cloud of drowsy smoke, keeping his own mouth and nose
well covered meanwhile with the silk muffler. Halliday made a faint
struggle to retain his senses and the control of his muscles, but the
known world receded rapidly from him, and he seemed to be withdrawn into
gulfs of utter gloom. The last coherent thought which came into his mind
was that the pretended cigarette produced by Penn was a drugged pastile.
Then an effort to grasp the undoubted fact that he had been lured into a
skilful trap which had shut down on him, used up his remaining will-power,
and he remembered no more. Whither he went into darkness, or what he did,
Dan never knew, as there seemed to be no break in the time that elapsed
from his becoming unconscious in the taxi and waking with the acrid smell
of some reviving salts in his nostrils. He might have been on earth or in
sky and sea; he did not know, for he opened his eyes languidly in a
dense gloom.

"Where am I?" he asked, but there was no reply. His senses came back to
him with a rush, owing perhaps to the power of the stimulant applied to
bring him round. He sat up alertly in his chair, and felt immediately that
his arms were bound tightly to his sides, so that he could not use his
revolver, or even strike a match. He certainly would have done this latter
had he been able to, for he greatly desired to be informed as to the
quality of his surroundings. He presumed that he was in a large room of
some kind, and he became convinced by his sixth sense that the room was
crowded with people. When fully himself Dan could hear the soft breathing
of many unseen beings, but whether they were men or women, or a mixture of
the sexes, he could not say. Even when his eyes became accustomed to the
gloom he could discern nothing, for the darkness was that of Egypt.
And the silence, save for the steady breathing, was most uncanny.

Dan felt it incumbent upon him to make some attempt towards acquiring
knowledge. "What is the meaning of this outrage?" he demanded loudly and
in a resolute tone, "I insist upon knowing!"

From the near distance came a whispering voice, which made him shiver.
"No one insists here," said the unknown speaker, "all obey."

"Who is it that all obey?" demanded the prisoner undauntedly.

"Queen Beelzebub!" murmured the voice, soft and sibilant.

There flashed into Dan's mind some teaching, secular or sacred--he could
not tell which at the moment--relative to a deity who had to do with
flies. A Phoenician deity he fancied, but surely if his memory served him,
a male godling. Beelzebub, the god of Flies! He remembered now, and
remembered also the trade-mark of the mysterious society formed for the
purpose of murdering various people, for various reasons, known
and unknown.

"So you have got me at last," he said aloud; "I might have guessed that
Penn would trap me."

"No names," said the unseen speaker coldly, "it will be the worse for you
if you mention names."

"Am I addressing Beelzebub?" asked Dan, and for the life of him he
could not keep the irony out of his tones, for the whole thing was
so theatrical.

"Queen Beelzebub!"

"I see; you have given the god of Flies a consort. May I ask why I have
been brought here?"

"We intend to make you an offer."

"Who we? What we?"

"The members of the Society of Flies, of which I am the head."

"H'm, I understand. Don't you think you had better loose my hands and turn
up the lights?"

"Be silent!" ordered the voice imperiously, and, as Dan fancied, with some
hint of temper at the flippant way in which he talked, "be silent
and listen!"

"I can't help myself," said Halliday coolly, "go on, please."

There was a soft rustle, as if the unseen company admired his courage for
behaving calmly in what was, undoubtedly, a weird and trying situation.
Then some distance away a disc of red light, like a winter sun, appeared
with nerve-shaking swiftness. It revealed none of the company, for all
were still in the gloom, but concentrated its angry rays on a large and
solemn visage, unhuman in its stillness and awful calm. It was an Egyptian
face, such as belongs to the statues of the gods of Kem, and the
head-dress, stiff and formal, was also suggestive of the Nile. Of more
than usual size, Dan could only see its vast features, but fancied that a
red robe fell in folds from the neck downward. There was something grand
about this severe face, and in the darkness, with the scarlet light
gleaming fiercely on its immobility, it was assuredly effective, if
somewhat theatrical. The lips did not move when Queen Beelzebub began to
speak, but the eyes were alive; the eyes of the person concealed behind
the mask.
Dan noticed that when the face became visible in the angry red light, that
the speaker ceased to whisper, and the voice became deep, voluminous, and
resonant as that of a gong. The tone was that of a man, but it might have
been a woman speaking through an artificial mouthpiece. The final thing
which Dan noticed was that the whole atmosphere of the room reeked with
the rich fragrance of the Sumatra scent.

"You are very daring and meddlesome," said the voice, issuing in chilly
tones from behind the stately mask, "for you have intruded yourself into
affairs which have nothing to do with you."

"They have everything to do with me," retorted Halliday decisively, and
feeling reckless, "if you and your society are omniscient, you
should know."

"Omniscient is a good word. We know that you love Lillian Moon and wish to
marry her; we know that her uncle is willing this should be so, if you
discover the truth about his brother's death. You have been searching for
the assassin, and you are still searching. That search must stop."

"I think not."

"If you refuse to obey," said Queen Beelzebub, coldly, "we can put you out
of the way, as we have put others out of the way."

"The Law--"

A faint murmur of laughter was heard, suggestive of scorn. "We care
nothing for the law," said the speaker, contemptuously.

"Oh, I think you do, or you would not have taken all this trouble to have
brought me here."

"You are here to receive an offer."

"Indeed. I shall be glad to hear the offer."

"We wish you to join the Society of Flies, and swear to obey me,
the queen."

"Thank you, but an association of cut-throats does not appeal to me."

"Think twice before you refuse," the voice became threatening.

"I think once, and that is sufficient," returned Dan, drily.

"You are at our mercy. We can kill you as we have killed others."

"There are worse things than death. Dishonour."

"You talk like a fool," scoffed Queen Beelzebub. "What is dishonour?
Merely a word. It means nothing."

"I can well believe that it means nothing to you and your friends, said
Dan, who was weary of this fencing: "may I ask what advantage I gain by
becoming a member of your bloodthirsty gang?"

"We are an association," boomed the great voice, "banded against the
injustice of the world. We resent few people having wealth and the
majority going without the necessaries of life. Being limited in number,
the Law is too strong for us, and we cannot gain our objects openly;
therefore we have to strike in the dark."

"And your objects?"

"To equalise wealth, to give our members wealth, position, comfort,
and power."

"Oh. It's a kind of Socialistic community. You work for the poor."

"We work for ourselves."

"Rather selfish, isn't it?"

"People will only work for self, and to those who labour for us we give
all that they wish for. Become a member, and you will realise your
heart's desire."

"Perhaps," said Halliday, in a caustic tone, "I may realise that without
your aid."

"We think not. To marry Lillian Moon you must find who murdered her
father, and that person will never be found."

"Then why stop me from searching?"

"It is a pity you should waste your time," said Queen Beelzebub
sarcastically; "besides, you are one who would do honour to our society."

"Perhaps. But would the society do honour to me?"

"We can give you what you desire, on certain conditions."

"What are they?"

"You must take the oath and sign the book; swear to obey me, who am the
head of this association, without question; promise to be secret, and give
all your talents to forwarding the aims of the Society of Flies."

"H'm," said Dan, coolly, "a very comprehensive oath indeed. And the aims?"

"Wealth and power. We are banded together to get what we want, independent
of the law, and we think that the end justifies the means. We accept money
from those people who desire to get rid of their enemies, or of those who
stand between them and their desires. We supply plans of English forts to
foreign powers on condition that large sums are paid to us. We trade on
the secrets of people, which we learn in various ways. If we are asked by
any member to get him something, all the resources of the society are at
his disposal. Rivals can be removed if he wants to marry; relatives can be
put out of the way if he wishes for their money. There is no height to
which an ambitious man cannot climb with our aid. Join us, and you shall
marry Lillian Moon within the year, and also shall enjoy her
large fortune."

Desirous to learn more of the villainies with which this precious band of
scoundrels was concerned, Dan temporised. "And if I refuse?"

"You will be put to death!"

"Now? At this very moment?" Dan's blood ran cold, for, after all, he was
yet young, and life was sweet to him.

"No. You will be allowed to go, and death shall fall upon you when you
least expect it. Thus your agony will be great, for death may find you
tomorrow, or in a week, a month, or a year. We are not afraid you will
tell the police, for if you do it will only hasten your end. Besides, you
do not know where you are, and shall be taken away as secretly as you have
been brought here. The Law cannot touch us, because we work underground
like moles, and even if you told the police, your story of what has
happened would only be laughed at. The police," here the voice sneered,
"think everything is known, and refuse to believe that we exist."

"Well," said Dan, as if making up his mind, "can I ever leave the society
if I once join it?"

"Yes," said Queen Beelzebub, unexpectedly; "when you take the oath you
must swear to be sober, chaste, and secret, since these qualities are
needed to keep a member in good working trim. A certain amount of work you
must do in connection with our aims, so that you dare not speak without
being implicated in our doings. But, after a time, you can leave with
money, position, or power--whatever you desire, and then can lead your own
life, however profligate it may be. But while a member you must be
a saint."

"A black saint," murmured Dan, wondering at the solid ground upon which
this association was founded, and thinking how dangerous it could be with
its misdirected aims, "well, I don't say 'No' and I don't say 'Yes'.
I must have time to think what my answer will be."

"You shall have one month to consider, and then you shall be brought here
secretly again," said Queen Beelzebub, authoritatively, "but you will be
wise if you join us. We wish you to do so because you have brains, and we
want brains. Our society will rule the world if we get clever men to join,
as the training of our members in sobriety, chastity, self-control, and
secrecy is that of the so-called saints."

"I see," said Dan cheerfully, "the Lord's Prayer said backward, so to
speak, your Majesty. Well, the whole business is clever, and extremely
well managed as I can see. I shall take my month's respite, and then--"

"And then if you say 'Yes', you will have all that the world can give you;
if you say 'No', prepare for death."

A murmur, vague and indistinct, went round the dark room. "Prepare for
death."

"And if I speak to the police in the meantime?" asked Dan, yawning.

"You have been warned that if you do, death will follow immediately,"
declared Queen Beelzebub, "no human law can protect you from us.
Enough has been said, and you have thirty days to decide what to do."
As she spoke, the red light vanished as abruptly as it had come. Dan could
only hear the steady breathing of many people in the gloom, and wondered
how many members of this devilish society were present.

At that moment, and while the thought was yet in his mind, he felt that a
pastille was being held under his nose. The drowsy scent stole into his
brain, although he tried to avert his head, and almost immediately he
became again unconscious. Again he fell into gulfs of gloom, and
remembered nothing. When he recovered his senses, he was seated in a
four-wheeler, driving in an unknown direction, and he was alone.
His head ached, but he struck a match and looked at his watch. It was
eleven o'clock.

"Where did you find me?" he asked the cabman, putting his head out of the
window, and noticing that he was in a well-lighted street.

"A friend of yours brought you to my cab," said the man, "saying you was
drunk--dead drunk. He gave me your address, and I'm taking you home."

"Clever," said Dan to himself, accepting the explanation without comment.



Chapter XIII. A BOLD DETERMINATION

Dan went to bed with an aching head, doubtless induced by the power of the
drug which had been used to stupefy him. The Sumatra perfume was evidently
both powerful and useful, as it was used by the Society of Flies not only
as a means of recognition in the form of a harmless scent, but as a
soporific to bring about insensibility. Probably many a person had been
rendered unconscious by the drowsy smoke, and taken to the headquarters of
the infernal association, there to become members. But where the
headquarters were to be found, Dan had not the slightest notion. And, as
his head pained him greatly, he decided to wait until the next morning
before thinking out the matter. Off and on he managed to sleep a trifle,
but it was not until the small hours that true slumber came to him. It was
nine o'clock when he woke, and then he found his head clear, and the pain
absent. Only an evil taste remained in his mouth, and after a cold bath he
felt more himself, although a touch of languor remained to recall to his
recollection what he had been through.

After breakfast he lighted a pipe, and began to think over late events as
carefully as was necessary. On alighting at his own door he had paid the
driver of the four-wheeled cab, and had asked questions, which the man was
willing enough to answer. Halliday hoped by learning where the cabman had
picked him up to discover at least the neighbourhood wherein the
headquarters were situated. It was difficult to think that an unconscious
person, as he had been, could have been taken any great distance along
streets, or roads, or lanes, without attention being attracted. But the
cabman explained that the friend who had placed his fare in the
four-wheeler had removed him from a taxi, which the friend declared had
broken down. "And he wanted to get you home, you being drunk," explained
the driver, "so he shoved you into my trap, and I drove off, having the
address I was to take you to, leaving your friend to look after the
broken-down taxi, along with the chuffer."

From this explanation it was apparent that on being removed from the dark
room Dan had been transported for some distance, long or short, in the
taxi. He did not believe that the same had broken down, but that his
friend--probably Marcus Penn--had hailed the first cab he saw, and on
pretence of an accident had got rid of him in this clever way. It was West
Kensington where this exchange had taken place, according to the cabman's
story, but since he had been driven an indefinite distance by Penn in the
taxi, the headquarters might be in Hampstead, or Blackheath, or Ilford,
or, indeed, anywhere round about London, if not in the heart of the
metropolis itself. All bearings were lost by the clever way in which the
return had been carried out.

And now Halliday scarcely knew what to do, or how to act. He did not dare
to tell the police, as the first sign of activity on the part of the
authorities would mean his own death in some mysterious way. He also would
be found with an artificial fly near the wound, and the odour of the
Sumatra scent on his clothes. As Dan did not wish to die, he therefore
hesitated to make any statement to Inspector Tenson of Hampstead, who was
so anxious to learn the secret and gain the reward. In fact, he hoped that
the man would not come to his rooms--he had been there several times in
quest of information--lest he should smell the Sumatra scent. Dan found
that he had brought the perfume away on his clothes when he examined them,
which was scarcely to be wondered at considering how powerfully the dark
room had reeked of the odour. Certainly Tenson did not know the scent so
well as Halliday did, although he had experienced a whiff of it when
examining the body of Sir Charles Moon. But he might have forgotten
the smell.

While Dan turned over his clothes--the blue serge suit he had worn on the
previous night--he found a piece of paper in one of the trousers pockets
which contained a message type-written in crimson ink. It was set forth in
the third person, by no less an individual than Queen Beelzebub herself,
and ran as follows-

"QUEEN BEELZEBUB warns Daniel Halliday that not only his own life depends
upon his secrecy but the life of Lillian Moon also. Should he apply to the
authorities, or in any way recount his adventures, the girl he loves will
be put out of the way, and afterwards Daniel Halliday will be dealt with.
At the end of thirty days Queen Beelzebub expects to receive homage from
her new subject, who will receive notice of time and place fixed for the
ceremony. Remember!"

"Quite a Charles-the-First ring about that last word," thought Dan,
frowning at the threatening message; "the scoundrels: they have tied my
hands with a vengeance. What the deuce am I to do?"

It was useless for him to ask himself this question as the only answer
could be, "Nothing!" If he moved in any way likely to harm the society he
ran the chance of sacrificing, not only himself, but Lillian. It was bad
enough that he should be done to death--he might have risked that so as to
break up the organisation; but it was impossible to place the girl he
loved in so dangerous a position. Queen Beelzebub knew what she was about
when she used the phrase. And Halliday was well aware that the society had
a long arm, and that nothing could protect Lillian from these moles who
were working in darkness--clever, deadly, and unscrupulous.

For the next two days the young man went about in a dream, or rather in a
nightmare. He did not dare to see Lillian, or to write to Lillian, lest
the members of the Society should believe he was betraying them.
They appeared to have spies everywhere, and there was no move on the
chessboard which he could make which might not be detected. Yet he could
not wait passively for the rest of the thirty days, since he had no idea
of joining the band, and had only asked for a respite so as to think out
some means of escape. More than ever he longed for the return of Laurance.
He could trust him, and a consultation between the two might evolve some
scheme by which to baffle the subjects of the accursed woman who called
herself Queen Beelzebub. Dan wondered if she was Mrs. Jarsell, but the
evidence of the perfume seemed too slight a link to join her with this
deadly organisation. Of course, there was Marcus Penn, who was a member
and knew everything; but he would not speak, since he also ran a risk of
death should he betray too much. Still, Dan, being in the same boat and
under the same ban, fancied that the secretary might be frank, as his
confidence could not be abused. Now, if he could get Penn to state
positively that Mrs. Jarsell was Queen Beelzebub, he might have something
tangible upon which to work. But, taking into consideration the Egyptian
mask, and the alteration of the voice by means of the artificial
mouth-piece, Dan believed that she wished to keep her identity secret;
always presuming that Queen Beelzebub was the "she" in question. On this
assumption Halliday concluded that Penn could not speak out, and bothered
himself for hours as to whether it would be worth while to ask the
secretary questions.

While still in this undecided frame of mind he received a morning visit
from Laurance, who turned up unexpectedly. Freddy, in pursuit of his
business, played puss-in-the-corner all over the world, coming and going
from London in the most unexpected manner. He reminded Dan of this when
the young man jumped up with an exclamation at his sudden entrance.

"You might have known that I would turn up, anyhow," he said, sitting
down, and accepting an offer to have breakfast. "I never know where I
shall be on any given date, and you must be always prepared for the
unexpected so far as I am concerned. I heard you were looking for me, when
I returned last night from Vienna, so I came along to feed with you."

Halliday ordered his man to bring in a clean cup, and poured out coffee,
after which he heaped Freddy's plate with bacon and kidneys. "There you
are, old fellow, eat away and get yourself ready for a long talk. I have
heaps to tell you likely to be interesting."

"About the murder of Durwin?" questioned, reaching for toast.

"Yes, and about the murder of Sir Charles Moon also. You don't mind my
smoking while you eat?"

"No. Smoke away! Have you seen 'The Moment' this morning?"

"No. Anything interesting in it about your Austrian excursion?"

"Oh, yes," said Laurance, indifferently, "I managed to learn a good deal
about these anarchistic beasts, and it's set all out in print. But that's
not what I meant," he fumbled in his pockets. "Hang it! I haven't brought
a paper, and I meant to. There's a death chronicled this morning."

Dan sat up and shivered. "Another of the murders?"

"Yes. Marcus Penn this time."

"Penn!" Halliday dropped his pipe. "The devil," he picked it up again.
"I wonder why they killed him?"

"He told you too much, maybe," said Laurance, drily; "anyhow, the gang
has got rid of him by drowning him in an ornamental pond in
Curberry's grounds."

"He might have fallen in," suggested Dan, uneasily, "or he might have
committed suicide out of sheer terror."

"Well, he might have," admitted Freddy, thoughtfully, "but from what I saw
of the man I should think he was too great a coward to commit suicide."

Dan smoked in a meditative manner. "I suppose she killed him, or had him
killed," he said aloud, after a pause.

"She? Who?"

"The she-devil who presides over the Society of Flies. Queen Beelzebub."

Laurance dropped his knife and fork to stare hard at his friend. "So you
have learned something since I have been away?"

"Several things. Wait a moment." Dan rose and retired to his bedroom,
while Freddy pushed away the breakfast things, as he did not wish to eat
further in the face of Halliday's hint, which had taken away his appetite.
In a few minutes Dan came back to the sitting-room carrying the clothes he
had worn on the night of his kidnapping, which still retained a faint
odour of the fatal scent belonging to the gang. "Smell that," said Dan,
placing the clothes on his friend's knee.

Laurance sniffed. "Is this the Sumatra scent?" he asked, "h'm; quite a
tropical fragrance. But I thought you proved to your satisfaction that
there was nothing in this perfume business?"

"I always had my doubts," said Halliday, drily, "they were lulled by
Penn's lies and reawakened when I found the scent at Mrs. Jarsell's. Now I
know all about the matter. I place my life in your hands by telling you."

"Is it as serious as that?" asked Laurance, uneasily.

"Yes. Serious to me and to Lillian also. Read that."

The journalist scanned the crimson type-writing, and his eyes opened
larger and larger as he grasped the meaning of the message. "Where the
deuce did you get this?" he demanded, hurriedly.

"I found it in my pocket when I got back the other night."

"Where from?"

"From the headquarters of the Society of Flies."

"There is a gang then?" asked Laurance, starting.

"Yes. A very well-organised gang, presided over by Queen Beelzebub, the
consort of the gentleman of that name, who is the god of Flies."

"Where are the headquarters?"

"I don't know."

"We may be able to trace the gang by this," said Freddy, examining the
type-written paper. "If Inspector Tenson--"

"If Tenson gets hold of that and learns anything, which by the way I don't
think he can, from that paper, my life won't be worth a cent; neither will
that of Lillian. I might not care for my own life, but I care a great deal
for her. I want to have a consultation as to what is best to be done to
save her from these devils."

"Well, you can depend upon my saying nothing, Dan. It seems serious.
Tell me all about your discoveries."

Halliday did so, starting with his visit to the cinematograph with
Lillian, and his recognition of Mrs. Jarsell in the animated picture.
Then he recounted his journey to Hillshire, and what he had learned from
Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew. "So on the face of it," concluded Dan,
earnestly, "I don't see how Mrs. Jarsell could have got to London.
She didn't go by train and could not have gone by motor. Yet, I'm sure she
was on the Blackheath grounds."

"It is a puzzle," admitted Freddy, drawing his brows together, "but go on;
you have something else to tell me."

"Rather," and Dan detailed all that had taken place from the time he
received Penn's invitation to meet him in the Bakerloo Tube to the moment
when he arrived at his rooms again in the four-wheeler. "What do you make
of it all, Freddy?" asked Halliday, when he ended and relighted his pipe.

"Give me time to think," said Laurance, and rose to pace the room. For a
time there was a dead silence, each man busy with his own thoughts. It was
Dan who spoke first, and said what was uppermost in his mind.

"Of course my hands are tied," he said dismally, "I dare not risk
Lillian's life. These beasts have killed her father, and Durwin, and Penn,
all because they got to know too much. They may kill Lillian also, and in
the same mysterious way."

"But she knows nothing," said Freddy, anxiously.

"No. But I do, and if I speak--well, then you know what will happen.
Queen Beelzebub saw that I cared little for my own life, so she is
striking at me through Lillian. "The girl he loves!" says that message.
Clever woman Mrs. Jarsell; she has me on toast."

"But, my dear fellow, you can't be sure that your masked demon is Mrs.
Jarsell, since you did not see her face, or recognise her voice."

"I admit that the mask concealed her features, and I believe that she
spoke through an artifical mouth-piece to disguise the voice. Still, there
is the evidence of her possessing the perfume, which plays such a large
part in the gang's doings. Also her appearance in the animated picture,
which proves her to have been on the Blackheath ground."

"But Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew declare positively that she could not
have been there."

"Quite so, but Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew may be paid to keep silence,"
retorted Dan, in a worried tone; "then Miss Armour, if you remember,
prophesied that I should have a wonderful offer made to me. If I accepted
I should marry Lillian and enjoy a large fortune. Well, an offer in
precisely the same words was made to me, on condition that I joined
the gang."

"But surely you don't believe that a paralysed woman like Miss Armour has
anything to do with this business?" questioned Laurance, sceptically.

Dan shrugged his shoulders. "Miss Armour is the friend of Mrs. Jarsell,
whom I suspect, and certainly told my fortune, as you heard. Mrs. Jarsell
may have told her what to say, knowing that the prophecy would be
fulfilled. I don't say that Miss Armour knows about this infernal
organisation, as the very idea would horrify her. But Mrs. Jarsell may use
the poor woman as a tool."

"I can't believe that Miss Armour knows anything," said Freddy, decidedly;
"to begin with, the Society of Flies needs useful people, and an invalid
like Miss Armour would be of no use."

"I admit that Miss Armour is in the dark," replied Halliday, impatiently;
"all the same, her prophecy, together with the perfume and the
cinematograph evidence, hints at Mrs. Jarsell's complicity. Again, the
false Mrs. Brown who murdered Sir Charles was stout and massive.
Mrs. Jarsell is stout and massive."

"Plenty of women are stout and massive," asserted the reporter, "but you
saw the false Mrs. Brown yourself. Did you recognise Mrs. Jarsell as
that person?"

"No. But Mrs. Brown was so wrinkled for a fat woman that I remember
thinking at the time she might be a fraud. I daresay--I am positive, in
fact--that her face was made up, and while I looked at her she let down
her veil--another hint that she did not wish to be examined too closely."

"If you think that Mrs. Jarsell murdered Moon and Durwin, and you have the
evidence you speak of, you should reveal all to the police."

"And risk Lillian's life and my own? Freddy, you must take me for a fool."

Laurance shook his head. "No. I don't underrate your cleverness, and I see
that you are in a tight place. You can't move with safety to yourself and
Miss Moon. Yet, if you don't move, what is to be done?"

"Well," said Dan, after a pause, "I have a month to think matters out.
My idea is to hide Lillian somewhere under the care of Mrs. Bolstreath,
and then take action. So long as Lillian is safe I am ready to risk my own
life to bring these mysteries to light."

"I am with you," cried Freddy, enthusiastically, "it's a good scheme, Dan.
I wonder how Miss Moon is to be hidden though; since the Society of Flies
may employ spies to find her whereabouts?"

"Oh, every member of the Society is a spy," was Halliday's answer,
"although I don't know how many members of the gang there are. Penn could
have told us, and perhaps could have proved the identity of Mrs. Jarsell
with Queen Beelzebub. But he's dead, and--"

"And was murdered," broke in Laurance decisively. "I am quite sure
that--because he could prove too much for Mrs. Jarsell's safety--he was got
rid of."

"Oh!" Dan looked up with a smile, "then you believe that Mrs. Jarsell--"

"I don't know what to believe until more evidence is forthcoming," said
the reporter, impatiently, "but Miss Moon's hiding-place, with Mrs.
Bolstreath as her guardian?"

Halliday reflected, and then made the last answer Freddy expected to hear,
considering the circumstances. "At Sheepeak with Miss Vincent,"
he declared.

"Dan, are you serious? You place her under the guns of the enemy."

"Quite so, and there has been proof that under the guns is the safest
place in some cases. It is in this, I am sure. Should Mrs. Jarsell be the
person we suspect her to be, she will not foul her own nest at Sheepeak.
Therefore she will not dare to have Lillian killed within a stone-throw of
her own house. By daring all, we gain all."

"It's a risk," said Laurance, pondering. "I can see that."

"So can I. Everything is risky in this business."

"Then there's Mildred," rejoined the journalist, uneasily. "I really do
not want her to be brought into the matter."

"It will be all right, Freddy, and much the safer for Lillian.
Mrs. Jarsell won't have the courage to hurt my promised wife, when your
promised wife is in her company. Still, if you have qualms--"

"No, no, no!" interrupted Laurance, eagerly, "after all, I cannot be half
a friend, and if Mildred is willing, when she learns the whole
circumstance, that is, I shall agree. After all, if anything does happen,
we can accuse Mrs. Jarsell, and if she is Queen Beelzebub she will end her
career in gaol. I don't think she will risk that by hurting the girls."

"Oh, she would never hurt Miss Vincent, I am sure, and would only harm
Lillian because I have to be frightened into joining her gang. No, Freddy,
a daring policy is the best in this case. We'll place Lillian with Mrs.
Bolstreath under Mildred Vincent's charge--under the guns of the enemy as
you say. I am sure the result will be good."

"But Sir John Moon will make a row if you take his niece away?"

"Let him," retorted Dan, contemptuously. "I can deal with that fribble of
a man. After all, Lillian need only be absent from London for a month, and
during that time we must break up the gang, with or without the aid of the
police. If we don't, I shall certainly be murdered, like Moon and Durwin
and Penn have been, and on the same grounds--that I know too much. But I
daresay Lillian will then be left alone, and Sir John can carry out his
pet scheme and marry her to Curberry."

"I wonder," said Laurance, musingly, "if Curberry has anything to do with
the gang in question."

"I think not, he has nothing to gain."

"Now he hasn't," said Freddy, drily; "but he had a good deal to gain when
he was a barrister and two lives stood between him and a title and
a fortune."

The two men looked at one another. "I see what you mean," said Dan,
slowly, "h'm. Of course he may be a member and the society may have
cleared his uncle and cousin out of the way. But we can't be sure.
One thing at a time, Freddy. I am going to see Lillian and Mrs. Bolstreath
and get them to fly to Sheepeak."

"But you will have to reveal what we know, and that will frighten them!"

Dan looked vexed and gnawed his nether lip. "I don't want to say more than
is necessary," he replied, "as for their own safety, the less they know
about the business, the better. Perhaps I may induce Lillian to elope with
me to Sheepeak, and need not explain to her. But Mrs. Bolstreath must
know more."

"Well," said Freddy, putting on his hat, "I leave these matters in your
very capable hands. So far as I am concerned, I am going to Blackheath to
see about this death of Penn. I may get into the house--" He paused.

"Well?" asked Halliday, raising his eyebrows.

"Well, if Curberry does favour this Society of Flies, who knows what I may
discover? Also some truths may come out at the inquest. Penn belonged to
the gang as we know, and when he wanted a situation, he was taken on by
Lord Curberry. That hints at much. However, we shall see; we shall see!"
and with a careless nod Freddy took his leave, while Dan changed his
clothes with the intention of calling at Sir John Moon's house.

Owing to a late breakfast, and the long conversation with Laurance, it was
quite one o'clock before Dan reached his destination. He half expected to
be refused admittance as usual, especially when he learned from the
footman that Miss Moon was not in the house. But failing Lillian, who had
no doubt gone out on a shopping expedition and would shortly return to
luncheon, Dan sent in his name to Mrs. Bolstreath, with a request for an
interview. It was best to explain the situation to her, he thought, since
no time should be lost in assuring Lillian's safety. The chaperon saw the
young man at once, and when introduced into the room where she was seated,
he was struck by her worried air. His thought immediately flew to
the girl.

"Lillian?" he asked anxiously, "is anything the matter with Lillian?"

"Oh, that girl will break my heart with her freaks," said Mrs. Bolstreath,
in an irritable tone; "she knows that Sir John does not approve of her
going out by herself, and that my retaining my situation depends upon my
looking after her closely. Yet she has gone out without telling me."

"Where has she gone to?"

"Well," said Mrs. Bolstreath, looking at him, "I think she has gone to
Lord Curberry's house."

Dan's lip curled. "that ought to please Sir John. Is he with her?"

"No. Sir John is in the country for a few days. He would not be pleased at
Lillian going to see Lord Curberry without my being present."

"But why has she gone to see a man she hates?" asked Halliday, perplexed.

"It is not Lord Curberry she wishes to see." Mrs. Bolstreath hesitated. "I
suppose you saw that Mr. Penn is dead?" she asked, irrelevantly.

"It was in the morning paper, I know--that is, the announcement of his
death," said Dan. "Laurance came and told me. Well?"

"This morning Lillian received a letter from Mr. Penn, written a few days
ago, saying that if anything happened to him, she was to go to Lord
Curberry and find some important paper he has left behind him for
her perusal."

"Oh!" Dan started to his feet, "then Penn has left a confession?"

"A confession?" Mrs. Bolstreath looked puzzled.

"He must have guessed that his death was determined upon," said Halliday
to himself, but loud enough for his companion to hear, "perhaps the truth
will come out in that confession."

"What truth? For heaven's sake, Mr. Halliday, speak plainly. I am worried
enough as it is over Lillian's escapade. Is anything wrong?"

"A great deal. Mrs. Bolstreath, I have to confide in you in order to save
Lillian from death--from a death like her father suffered."

Mrs. Bolstreath screamed. "Oh, what is it, what is it?"

"You must be silent about what I tell you."

"Of course I shall. I can keep a secret. But tell me, tell me," she panted.

"If you don't keep the secret all our lives are in jeopardy. There is no
time to be lost. I must follow Lillian to Curberry's house at once.
Listen, Mrs. Bolstreath, and remember every word I say is important."
Then Dan in a tearing hurry related much that he knew, though not more
than was absolutely necessary. However, he told enough to make Mrs.
Bolstreath almost crazy with terror. "Keep your head and my confidence,"
said Halliday, sharply; "we must beat these demons at their own game.
Get ready and come with me to Blackheath; on the way I can
explain further."

"You think that Lillian is safe?" implored Mrs. Bolstreath, preparing to
leave the room and assume her out-of-door things.

"Yes. Yet, if Curberry is connected with the gang and thinks she is
hunting for Penn's confession, he may--but it won't bear thinking of.
We must go to Lillian at once. You will work with me to save Lillian?"

"With all my heart and soul and body," cried the chaperon, wildly.

"Then get ready and come with me at once," said Dan, imperiously.



Chapter XIV. A BUSY AFTERNOON

Lord Curberry was something of a student and a great deal of a
man-about-town, so his residence at Blackheath was an ideal one for an
individual who blended such opposite qualities. His pleasant Georgian
mansion of mellow red brick stood sufficiently far from London to secure
privacy for study, and yet was sufficiently near to enable its owner to
reach Picadilly, Bond Street, the clubs and the theatres easily, when he
felt so disposed. The chief seat of the family, indeed, was situated in
Somersetshire, but Curberry, not possessing a sporting nature, rarely went
to live in the country. The Blackheath estate was not large, consisting
only of a few acres of woodland, surrounded by a lofty stone wall; but
this wall and the trees of the park so sequestered the house that its
seclusion suggested a situation in the very wildest parts of England.
In every way, therefore, this compact place suited Lord Curberry and he
lived there for the greater part of the year.

When Dan and Mrs. Bolstreath arrived they found that the house had been
thrown open to the public, so to speak. That is, there was a crowd at the
entrance-gates, many people in the grounds, and not a few in the very
mansion itself. There was not much difficulty in guessing that Marcus
Penn's death had drawn a morbid multitude into the neighbourhood wherein
he had come to his untimely end.  Moreover, the inquest was to be held in
the house, and the public desired ardently to hear if the verdict would be
"suicide!" "Murder!" or merely "Accident!" In any case, sensational
developments were expected, since the death of the secretary was both
violent and unexpected. As a barrister, Curberry assisted the law in every
possible way and had permitted the inquest to take place in the house
instead of ordering the body of the unfortunate man to be removed to the
nearest mortuary. Everyone commented on his kindness in this respect, and
approved of his consideration. For the time being Curberry was more
popular than he had ever been before.

As Dan walked up the short avenue, and noted the disorganisation of the
establishment, he made a significant remark to the agitated chaperon.
"I don't think that Curberry will have much time to give to Lillian.
All the better isn't it?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," said Mrs. Bolstreath, much
flustered.

"Well, Penn must have concealed his confession somewhere about the house,
so if Lillian wishes to find it, she must get rid of Curberry somehow."

"But wouldn't it be wise of her to tell him and ask him to assist in the
search?" suggested the lady.

"No. If Penn wished Curberry to see his confession, he would have given it
to him for delivery to Lillian. He doesn't want Curberry to see what he
has written. H'm"--Dan reflected that he had used the present tense--
"I forgot that the poor chap is dead."

"But surely," Mrs. Bolstreath's voice sank to a horrified whisper, "surely
you don't think that Lord Curberry has anything to do with these horrible
people you have been telling me about?"

"I say nothing--because I know nothing--for certain, that is. I only
suspect--er--well--that Curberry may be in the swim. Now don't go and give
away the show by changing your manner towards the man," continued
Halliday, hastily; "act as you have always acted and, indeed, I want you
to make yourself as agreeable as possible. Take him away if you can, and
leave me alone with Lillian."

"But for what reason?"

"Well, if Curberry is mixed up in this shady business he will not leave
Lillian alone. He may wonder, and probably does, at her unexpected
presence here, on this day of all days; therefore he may suspect a
confession by his secretary, and will keep his eyes open."

"Oh, you go too far," cried Mrs. Bolstreath, fanning herself with
her handkerchief.

"Perhaps I do," assented Dan, in a very dry tone; "but in a case like this
it is just as well to take all necessary precautions. And in any case
Curberry will haunt Lillian's footsteps until she is out of the house, if
only to find out why she paid this unnecessary visit."

"He can ask her," said the chaperon curtly.

"He won't, if he is what I suspect him to be. But there, I may be accusing
the man wrongfully."

"I'm sure you are. Lord Curberry is a perfect gentleman."

"Perfect gentlemen have been discovered doing shady things before now.
However, you understand the comedy we have arranged. You have come to
fetch Lillian back, and I came to escort you. Then get Curberry away on
some pretext and let me have ten minutes talk with Lillian. Understand?"

"Yes," gasped Mrs. Bolstreath; "but I don't like these things."

"One can't touch pitch without being defiled," quoted Dan, cynically, as
they arrived at the open hall door; "we wish to see Lord Curberry."

This last question was addressed to a footman, who came to meet them.
He recognised Mrs. Bolstreath as having been in the house before with Miss
Moon, so readily explained that the young lady was with his master in the
drawing-room. Everything was so upset with the inquest, that he never
thought of asking for a card, so conducted the visitors to where Lord
Curberry was entertaining the girl. Having announced the names and fairly
pushed them into the room, the footman departed in a hurry, as there was
much excitement amongst the servants and he wished to hear all that was
being said. Had not Curberry been attending to Lillian, he would have kept
better order, as he was a severe master, and expected decency under all
circumstances. But no doubt he also was disturbed by the unusual invasion
of his house.

"My-dear-Lillian," cried Mrs. Bolstreath, in large capitals, and advancing
towards the end of the room, where Lillian was seated, looking
uncomfortable, "my dear Lillian!" She glared at Lord Curberry.

The gentleman had evidently been pressing his suit, a proceeding which
sufficiently explained Miss Moon's discomfort. He was as cadaverous as
ever in his looks, and his pale-blue eyes, thin lips and general sneering
expression struck Dan afresh as uncommonly unpleasant. The man flushed to
a brick red under Mrs. Bolstreath's glare and hastened to excuse himself.
"I am not to blame, I assure you," he said, hurriedly.

"Blame!" echoes Lillian, with a thankful glance at the sight of her lover,
"why do you say 'blame', Lord Curberry?"

"You ask that?" said Mrs. Bolstreath, plumping down indignantly, "when you
go away without my knowledge to pay an unauthorised visit to a--a--a
bachelor. If I thought that Lord Curberry--"

"I am not to blame," said that gentleman again with a scowl, for he did
not like to stand on the defensive.

"Of course you aren't," remarked Miss Moon, easily, and with another
glance at Dan to point her words. "I saw in the paper that poor Mr. Penn
was dead, and as he had been my dear father's secretary I came on the
impulse of the moment to learn exactly what had happened."

Curberry nodded acquiescence. "I have explained the circumstance to Miss
Moon and I shall explain matters to you, Mrs. Bolstreath! As for Mr.
Halliday," he frowned at Dan, "I don't know why he has come."

"To escort me, at my request," said Mrs. Bolstreath, coldly. "It was
necessary for me to call here, and take Lillian home. Why did you come?"
she asked again.

"To hear about Mr. Penn," repeated Lillian, rather crossly. "I have been
telling you so for the last few minutes."

"I am curious about Penn's death myself," said Dan, agreeably; "did he
commit suicide?"

Curberry wheeled at the word. "Why should he commit suicide?" he demanded
with suspicion written on every line of his clean-shaven face.

Dan shrugged his shoulder. "I'm sure I can't say," he answered
good-humouredly; "only a man in good health isn't found drowned unless he
has some reason to get into the pond."

"Penn was not in good health," said Curberry, sharply; "he was always
complaining and did his work so badly that I intended to give him notice."

"Perhaps he committed suicide because you did."

"No. I did not tell him to go, and, after all, I can't say that he did
kill himself. He was all right at luncheon yesterday, which was when I
last set eyes on him. I went to town and returned at five o'clock to hear
that he was dead. One of the servants walking in the park found his body
in the ornamental water at the bottom of the garden."

"Did anyone push him in?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath.

"I think not. He was on good terms with the servants, although not popular
in any way. No one in my employment would have murdered him, and, as the
gates were closed and no one called between luncheon and five o'clock
yesterday, it is quite certain that he was not murdered by a stranger. In
fact, I don't believe he was murdered at all."

"Suicide, then?" suggested Dan once more, and again Curberry looked at him
unpleasantly, as if not relishing the idea.

"So far as I saw he had no intention of committing suicide," he said in
cold manner; "however, the evidence at the inquest will settle
the matter."

"I expect he didn't look where he was going and fell in," said Lillian
suddenly. "Mr. Penn was always absent-minded you know."

"I frequently found him so," remarked Curberry grimly; "he made a great
mess of his work occasionally. I am inclined to agree with you,
Miss Moon."

"Well," said Dan, after a pause, "let us settle that Penn fell in by
accident, until we hear the verdict of the jury. When does the inquest
take place?"

"In another hour," responded the host, glancing at his watch; "I was just
impressing upon Miss Moon the necessity of returning home when you
arrived. I have to be present, of course, so as to state what I know
of Penn."

"You will give him a good character?" asked Halliday, pointedly.

Curberry stared in a supercilious way. "The best of characters," he said.
"I had no fault to find with him save that he was absent-minded, a quality
which no doubt accounts for his death, poor chap."

"Well, well, it's all very sad," said Mrs. Bolstreath in a matter of fact
way; "but all our talking will not bring the poor man back.
Lillian, child, we must go home, now that your curiosity is satisfied.
But first I shall ask Lord Curberry to give me some of those hot-house
flowers I see yonder," and she nodded towards a conservatory, which could
be entered from the drawing-room by means of a French window.

"Oh, I shall be charmed," said Curberry, with alacrity; "and perhaps Miss
Moon will come also to choose the flowers."

"I can wait here," replied Lillian, carelessly. "I have every confidence
in Mrs. Bolstreath's choice."

Curberry scowled at Dan, for he understood well enough that Lillian wished
to remain with his rival. However, he could make no further objection
without appearing rude, so he moved reluctantly towards the conservatory
beside the chaperon. Yet Dan saw plainly that he was determined not to
lose sight of the two, for he plucked the flowers which were directly in
front of the French window, and thus could gain a view of the young couple
every now and then, when facing round to speak with Mrs. Bolstreath.
Lillian noticed this espionage, also, and whispered to Dan, who had
sauntered across the room close to her elbow.

"He won't let us out of his sight," said Lillian, rapidly, "and I can't
get to the library, although I have been trying all the time."

"Why do you wish to get to the library?" asked Dan, in a low voice.

Lillian rose suddenly and dropped a piece of paper. "Put your foot on it
and pick it up when he is not looking," she said, swiftly; "hush, he's
coming back," and then she raised her voice as Curberry returned to the
room. "Of course Mr. Penn was always nervous. I really think his health
was bad."

"Still on the disagreeable subject of the death," remarked Curberry, who
had a handful of flowers to offer. "I wish you wouldn't think of these
things, Lillian--I beg pardon, Miss Moon. Please take these flowers and
let me escort you and Mrs. Bolstreath out of the house. Its atmosphere is
uncomfortable just now."

He took no notice of Dan, but offered his arm to Lillian. With a swift
glance at her lover, at Mrs. Bolstreath, at the room, the flowers, at
anything save Dan's right foot, which was placed firmly on the scrap of
paper, she accepted his offer. The chaperon followed, and when Curberry's
back was turned she noticed that Halliday stooped swiftly to pick up the
paper. But that he gave her a warning glance she would have asked an
indiscreet question. As it was, she went after her host and pupil, walking
beside Dan, who had now slipped the paper into his trousers pocket.
But Mrs. Bolstreath could not restrain her curiosity altogether.

"What is it?" she whispered, as they walked into the entrance hall.

"Nothing! Nothing!" he replied, softly. "take Lillian home at once.
I shall follow later," and with this Mrs. Bolstreath was obliged to be
content, although she was desperately anxious to know more.

"I wish I could escort you home," said Curberry, as the two ladies and he
stood on the steps; "but my duty keeps me here for the inquest.
Perhaps Mr. Halliday will oblige."

"I am afraid not," said Dan, stolidly. "I promised to meet my friend Mr.
Laurance here. He is coming about the matter of Penn's death. Why, there
he is." And sure enough, at a moment that could not have been better
chosen, Freddy appeared advancing up the avenue.

"Well," said Mrs. Bolstreath, catching a significant glance from Dan.
"We are not able to wait and chat. Lord Curberry, we detain you."

"No! no! Let me walk for some distance with you," cried Curberry, and
bareheaded as he was he strolled down the avenue between the two ladies.
Laurance took off his hat and Lillian bowed graciously, as did Mrs.
Bolstreath. But Lord Curberry took no notice of the reporter beyond a
rude stare.

"That's just as it should be," remarked Halliday, watching the man's
retreating form, while Freddy came up to him; "you're just the man
we want."

"We?" echoed Laurance, glancing round.

"Lillian and myself. See here, this is the note sent by Penn to her, and
it asks her to do something which she has not been able to accomplish
owing to our noble friend's vigilance."

"What's that?"

"I'm just going to find out. I haven't read the note as yet," and with a
second glance to make sure that Curberry was at a safe distance Dan opened
the piece of paper, and read it hurriedly. A moment later he slipped it
again into his pocket and took Freddy's arm. "It's only a few lines saying
that Penn has left a document which he wishes Lillian to read. It is to be
found between the pages of the second volume of Gibbon's 'Decline and
Fall'. Hum! So that is why Lillian wished to get into the library."

"Let me go," said Freddy, eagerly.

"No! no! You catch Curberry as he returns and keep him in conversation on
some plea or other. Then I can slip into the house and seek the library
without being noticed."

"Won't the servants--"

"Oh, the house is all upset this day with the inquest, and everyone is
wandering about more or less at large. I'll chance it."

"But if Lord Curberry asks for you?"

"Say that I am in the library and that I am waiting to have an interview."

"On what subject?" asked Laurance, rather puzzled by this scheming.

"I'll find the subject," said Dan, retreating towards the door of the
house; "all I want is five minutes in the library to find the confession.
Detain Curberry for that time. Here he is coming back and here I am
going forward."

As he spoke Dan vanished into the house and came face to face with the
butler. "I am waiting for Lord Curberry," said Dan, "will you show me into
the library, please."

Suspecting nothing wrong and impressed by Dan's cool manner, the butler
conducted him to the room in question, and after intimating that he would
tell his lordship, departed, closing the door. Halliday ran his eye round
the shelves, which extended on three sides of the large compartment from
floor to ceiling. It seemed impossible to find the book he was in search
of, in so short space of time as would probably be at his disposal.
He wished that Penn had indicated the position of Gibbon's masterpiece.
However, Halliday, by a stroke of luck, suddenly realised that Curberry
numbered his shelves alphabetically, and catalogued his books so to speak
by the initial letter of the author's name. Those beginning with "A" were
placed on the shelf ticketed with that letter, as Allison, Allen,
Anderson, and so on, while the shelf "B" contained Browning, Bronte,
Burns, and others. Going by this way of finding the whereabouts of books,
Dan discovered Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" on shelf "G" and laid his hand
on the second volume. But as luck would have it, Lord Curberry suddenly
entered the room just as he was about to open it. Halliday looked up,
retaining the volume in his hand.

"I am rather surprised to see you here, Mr. Halliday," said Curberry, in a
cold and haughty tone, "you know that I am busy with this inquest and have
no time for conversation. Besides," he looked hard at his visitor, "you
could have explained your business out of doors."

"Not in the presence of the ladies," said Dan promptly; "however, I won't
keep you more than five minutes," and he wondered how he was to secure the
confession without the knowledge of his host.

"I am waiting to hear what you have to say," said Curberry, throwing his
lean figure into a chair, "you have been making yourself at home," he
added, with a sneer, glancing at the book.

Dan laid it on the table. "I took up Gibbon's second volume, just to pass
the time," said he carelessly, "I apologise if you think me presuming."

"I don't think anything," rejoined Curberry, with a shrug, "except that I
am anxious to know why you desire a private conversation."

"It is about Lillian--"

"Miss Moon, if you please."

"Lillian, to me, Lord Curberry."

"Nothing of the sort, Sir," cried the other suitor furiously, and his pale
eyes grew angry. "Sir John Moon wishes me to marry his niece."

"Probably, but his niece wishes to marry me."

"That she shall never do."

"Oh, I think so. And what I wish to say, Lord Curberry, is this--that you
annoy Miss Moon with your attentions. They must cease."

"How dare you; how dare you; how dare you!"

"Oh, I dare anything where Lillian is concerned," retorted Halliday, and
again in a careless manner took up the book, leaning against the table and
crossing his legs as he did so.

"Leave my house," cried Curberry, starting to his feet, for this
nonchalant behaviour irritated him greatly.

"Oh, willingly! I simply stayed to warn you that Lillian must not be
annoyed by you in any way."

"And if I do not obey you?" sneered the other, quivering with rage.

"I shall make myself unpleasant, Lord Curberry."

"Do you know to whom you are speaking?"

"Well," said Dan, slowly, and with a keen glance at the angry face, "I am
not quite sure. I am not Asmodeus to unroof houses, you know."

Curberry's yellow face suddenly became white, and his lips trembled
nervously. "I don't understand you."

"I scarcely understand myself, and--"

"Wait," interrupted Curberry, as a knock came to the door, "there is no
need to let everyone overhear our conversation. Come in!" he cried aloud.

The butler entered. "You are wanted at the inquest, my lord," he said, and
as Curberry's face was bent inquiringly on that of the servant, Dan seized
the opportunity to slip a stiff sheaf of papers out of the Gibbon volume.
As a matter of fact, it was three or four sheets joined at the corner by a
brass clasp. Scarcely had he got it in his hand when Curberry wheeled,
after hurriedly telling the butler that he would come shortly.

"What have you there?" demanded the host, advancing menacingly.

"Some papers of mine," said Dan, preparing to put the sheets into his
pocket.

"It's a lie. You must have taken them from the table, or out of that book,
Mr. Halliday. Yes, I am sure you did. Give me what you have taken."

"No," said Dan, retreating before Curberry's advance, "you are not to--"

Before he could get out another word, the man flung himself forward and
made a snatch at the papers. Held loosely by the corner clasp they flew
into a kind of fan, and Curberry managed to grasp one or two of the
sheets. In the momentary struggle these were torn away, and then the owner
of the house released himself suddenly. The next moment he had flung the
sheets into the fire, apparently thinking he had got them all.
Dan cleverly thrust the one or two remaining sheets into his pocket, and
played the part of a man who has been robbed.

"How dare you destroy my papers," he cried indignantly.

"They were mine," said Curberry, gasping with relief, "and now they
are burnt."

"They were Penn's," retorted Halliday, sharply, "perhaps that is why they
have been destroyed by you."

"What do you mean; what do you mean?"

"Never mind. I think you understand."

"I don't. I swear I don't."

"In that case," said Dan, slowly, "you can make public the fact that I
came into your library to find a document in the second volume of Gibbon,
which was placed there by Marcus Penn. But you won't, Lord Curberry."

"If the papers were not destroyed, I would place them before the Coroner
at once," said Curberry, wiping his face and with a glance at the fire on
which fluttered a few black shreds--all that remained of what he had
thrown in. "I think you must be mad to talk as you do."

"If I am, why not make the matter public?" asked Dan, drily.

"I don't care about a scandal," said Curberry, loftily.

"Well," Halliday retreated to the library door, "perhaps the death of Penn
will be scandal enough. Those papers doubtless contained an account of the
reasons which led to his death."

"I'm sorry that I burnt them then," said Curberry in a studied tone of
regret. "I am an impulsive man, Mr. Halliday, and you should not have
annoyed me in the way you did. How did you know that the papers were in
the second volume of Gibbon?"

"Never mind."

"Were they addressed to you?"

"Never mind."

"What were they about?"

"Never mind."

"D-- you, sir, how dare you?"

"Good day, Lord Curberry," interrupted Dan, and walked out of the room,
leaving his host looking the picture of consternation and dread.



Chapter XV. ABSOLUTE PROOF

It did not require a particularly clever man to guess that Lord Curberry
was connected with the Society of Flies. Had he been entirely ignorant of
that association, he would not have displayed such agitation when he saw
the paper in Dan's hand, nor would he have struggled to gain possession of
them, much less have destroyed them. Penn certainly was one of the gang,
and on that account, probably, Curberry had engaged him as a secretary
after the death of Moon. Also he may have had some suspicion that Penn was
a traitor, and had guessed that the papers betrayed the society.
Otherwise, he would have placed the same before the Coroner, so as to
elucidate the reason why the secretary had been done to death. That he had
been, Halliday was quite convinced, as Penn was too nervous a man to
commit suicide and must have been assisted out of the world by some
other person.

"But the verdict of suicide has been brought in," argued Laurance, when
Dan related his adventures.

"I daresay. Curberry's evidence was to the effect that Penn had been
considerably worried of late. Of course, that is true, but he wouldn't
have killed himself, I'll swear. However!" Dan chuckled, "I have a sheet
or two remaining of the confession, and we may learn much from that."

"Will it state that Curberry belonged to Queen Beelzebub's gang?"

"I think so. If Curberry does not, he would have made a row and kicked me
out of the house. I had no business in the library and no right to take
the papers, you know. But I defied Curberry to create a scandal, and left
him in a pleasing state of uncertainty as to what I knew and what I
intended to do. He was green with fright."

"You had better take care, Dan, or the society will murder you," warned
Laurance, in an uneasy tone.

"Oh, I'm safe enough for the given month," returned Halliday, positively;
"so far, I have said nothing, and until I do notify the authorities all
will be well with me."

"But Miss Moon?"

"I join her, and Mrs. Bolstreath, at St. Pancras this evening, to catch
the six o'clock express to Thawley. Have you written to Miss Vincent?"

"Yes. There is no time to receive a reply, but she is aware that the
ladies will stay at the Peacock Hotel, Sheepeak, under the wing of Mrs.
Pelgrin. I only hope," added Freddy, emphatically, "that you are doing
right in placing Miss Moon in the lion's mouth."

"Under the guns of the enemy, you said before. Oh, yes, I am right,
especially now that I hold a part of Penn's confession. I shall contrive
to let Mrs. Jarsell know that I do, and that if anything happens to
Lillian, I can make it hot for her."

"Does the confession implicate Mrs. Jarsell?"

"Yes, it does. I have not had time to decipher the crooked writing of our
late friend, but intend to do so when in the train this evening. But the
little I saw, hinted that Mrs. Jarsell was in the swim."

"I wish you would leave the confession with me," said Laurance, who was
desperately anxious to know the exact truth.

"Can't, my dear fellow, nor have I time to let you read it, even if I had
it on me, which I haven't. My taxi is at the door of this office, and I'm
off to St. Pancras in five minutes. Remember, Freddy, that this confession
is my sole weapon to protect Lillian. When Mrs. Jarsell learns that I have
it, she will not dare to move, and will keep her subjects off the
grass also."

"But Curberry will tell her that he has destroyed the confession."

"So he thinks," chuckled Halliday, "but I shall tell her that I rescued
enough of it to damn her and her precious gang."

"But how can you tell her without danger?"

"I shall find a way, although I haven't formulated any scheme as yet.
Perhaps she will ask me what all this--the story of Queen Beelzebub you
know--has to do with her. I shall reply that it has nothing to do with
her, but that I know how she desires to assist in my love affair. Oh, I'll
manage somehow, old son, you may be certain. Good-bye."

"Wait a moment," said Laurance, following Dan to the door, "what about Sir
John Moon? He will make a row over Lillian's flight, and you will get
into trouble."

"He may make a row if he likes, but as Lillian is under the wing of Mrs.
Bolstreath, her duly-appointed chaperon, I don't see what he can say.
She is quite ready to take all blame."

"Of course," said Laurance, thoughtfully, "Sir John may belong to the
society himself, in which case, like Curberry, he dare not make a row."

"No," rejoined Dan, positively, "I don't believe Sir John belongs to the
gang. I wish he did, as it would smooth things. Curberry dare not make
open trouble, because he is one of Queen Beelzebub's subjects, but Sir
John may because he isn't. However, I shall risk taking Lillian away with
Mrs. Bolstreath to play the part of dragon, and Sir John can do what he
jolly well likes. Luckily, he is in the country on a visit just now, so we
can get clear away without a fuss. By the way, you were at the inquest.
Was there any fly found on Penn's body, or was there mention of
any scent?"

"No. The man was drowned, and it was not possible for either scent or fly
to be on his corpse or clothes. The evidence clearly pointed to suicide."

"H'm. Curberry brought that about," said Dan grimly; "however, I am jolly
well sure that Penn was murdered by one of the gang."

"Not by Curberry. He was away at the time of the death."

"Perhaps. I'd like to be certain of that. But in any case, he may have
others of the gang in his employment, who could polish off the traitor.
Queen Beelzebub's subjects are of all classes, Well, I'm off."

Halliday took his way to St. Pancras forthwith, and found Mrs. Bolstreath
and her charge waiting for him. Lillian was greatly excited and curious,
as she did not yet know the reason for this sudden trip northward.
Instructed by Dan, the chaperon had refused to impart knowledge, as the
young man intended to tell the girl everything when they were in the
train. However, Miss Moon was enjoying the unexpected journey and had
every faith in her companion. Also, so long as she was in Dan's company,
she did not care where she went, or why she went, or when she went.
She loved Halliday too completely for there to be any room for distrust in
her mind.

"Dan," said Mrs. Bolstreath, when they were stepping into the first-class
compartment which Halliday had wired to reserve to themselves, "I have
written to Sir John saying that Lillian required a change, and that I was
taking her to Hillshire, to see some friends of mine. When he has this
explanation he will not make any trouble, or even any inquiries. He has
every trust in me."

"Good," said Dan, heartily, "you make an excellent conspirator."

"Conspirator," echoed Lillian, gaily, "now what does that mysterious word
mean, Dan? I am quite in the dark."

"You shall know all before we get to Thawley. Make yourself comfortable!"

"Do we stay at Thawley?" asked the girl, arranging her rug.

"For the night. I have telegraphed, engaging rooms for you and Mrs.
Bolstreath at the best hotel. To-morrow we go to Sheepeak."

"Where is that?"

"Some miles from Thawley. You must live quietly for a short time, Lillian."

"It's all immensely exciting, of course," cried Miss Moon, petulantly,
"but I should like to know what it all means."

"Patience! Patience!" said Dan, in a teasing tone, "little girls should be
content to wait. By jove, we're off."

The long train glided out of the station, gathering impetus as it left the
lights of London behind. Mrs. Bolstreath made herself comfortable in one
corner of the compartment, and Lillian did the same in another corner,
while Dan sat on the opposite seat and addressed his conversation to both
impartially. The girl could scarcely restrain her impatience, so anxious
was she to learn the reason for this unexpected journey.

"Now, Dan, now!" she cried, clapping her hands, "there is no stop until
Bedford, so we have plenty of time to hear the story."

"One minute," said Halliday, who was now in possession of the three sheets
of foolscap, which he had rescued from Curberry's grip, "I must bring the
story up to date, and cannot do so until I read this statement. By the
way, Lillian, why should Penn send to you about the matter?"

"I'm sure I don't know. But, of course, he knew how grieved I was over my
father's murder, and perhaps wished to set my mind at rest."

Dan looked at her curiously. "Why should you think that Penn knew of
anything likely to set your mind at rest on that point?"

Lillian cast down her eyes thoughtfully. "I always thought that Mr. Penn
knew much more than he would confess about poor father's death. I quite
forgot that I thought so until I got the letter asking me to look into the
second volume of Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall' in Lord Curberry's library.
Dear me!" murmured the girl, folding her hands, "how I did try to get into
the library."

"Curberry would not let you?"

"No. I think he was puzzled why I wished to go. But he did not ask me
any questions."

"I quite believe that," said Dan, grimly; "asking questions was a
dangerous game for him to play. However, when he found me in the library,
he evidently recalled your desire to go there, and it flashed across him
that we were working in concert. No wonder he destroyed the papers on the
chance that Penn might have left incriminating evidence behind him."

"I don't know what you are talking about," said Lillian, fretfully.

"Well," observed Dan, smoothing out the foolscap, "Penn, no doubt, left
the clue as to the whereabouts of the confession to you, so that you might
learn who murdered your father."

"Ah, I always believed Mr. Penn knew. Is the name in that paper?" she
asked eagerly, and leaning forward.

"It may or it may not be, dear. You see the greater part of the confession
was destroyed by Lord Curberry. He was afraid."

"Dan!" Lillian caught her lover's hand, "you don't think that Lord
Curberry killed my father?"

"No, no, no!" said Halliday, quickly. "I am sure he did not. However, you
shall hear all that I know, and Laurance knows, and all that Mrs.
Bolstreath is acquainted with. Only let me read these few sheets first."

The girl, on fire with curiosity, would have objected, but that Mrs.
Bolstreath touched her shoulder significantly. With an effort to restrain
her curiosity which was creditable considering the circumstances, she
nestled into her corner of the carriage, while Dan glanced through the
manuscript. In spite of Penn's crooked handwriting--and it was very bad
indeed--it did not take much time for the young man to master the contents
of the confession. He uttered an exclamation of vexation when he reached
the end.

"Like a serial story, it breaks off at the most interesting part," he
said, crossly. "However, I have learned something."

"What have you learned?" demanded Mrs. Bolstreath immediately.

"All in good time," said Halliday, quietly. "I must first tell Lillian
what we both know, and then I can bring our discoveries up to date by
saying what is in this confession," and he tapped his breast-pocket,
wherein he had placed the sheets. "Now then, Lillian."

"Now then, Dan," she mocked, "just tell me all, for I cannot keep silence
any longer."

"You will have to, if you desire to hear the story. Only don't be worried
by what I am about to tell you. You are safe with me."

Lillian shrugged her shoulders, as if to imply that there was no need for
him to state such a plain truth, and looked at him with inquiring eyes.
As she appeared to be brave and collected, Dan had no hesitation in
relating to her all that he had already told Mrs. Bolstreath, and thus the
girl became thoroughly informed of the underhand doings which had taken
place since the death of her father. As Halliday explained, her eyes
became larger and rounder and more shining. Still, the colour did not
leave her cheeks, and although she was intensely interested, she did not
display any fright. This was creditable to her courage, considering that
the revelation hinted at many possible dangers to herself and to her
lover. Dan brought the story up to the time they started from London, and
then waited to hear her opinion.

"It's dreadful and wonderful, and very horrid," said Lillian, drawing a
deep breath; "do you think that Mr. Penn murdered my father?"

"No. The evidence of the girl to whom he was dictating letters to be
type-written proves that he did not enter the library at the time when the
death was supposed to have taken place--"

"Then Lord Curberry? He--"

"I don't believe Lord Curberry, either directly or indirectly, had
anything to do with the matter," said Dan, decisively. "Sir Charles
approved of his suit rather than of mine, so it was to Curberry's interest
to keep your father alive and well. My dear, it was the false Mrs. Brown
who killed Sir Charles, and she came as an agent of this ghastly Society
of Flies, because he got to know too much about the association."

"Then Mrs. Brown is Mrs. Jarsell?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, anxiously.

"I can't be sure of that," said the young man, thoughtfully; "of course,
the sole evidence that proves Mrs. Jarsell to be connected with the gang
is the presence of the Sumatra scent in her Hillshire house, and her
presence on the Blackheath grounds when Durwin was murdered."

"But, by your own showing, she could not have reached London in time."

"That is quite true, and yet I recognised her plainly enough on the day
Lillian and I saw the animated pictures. However, we can leave that fact
alone for the moment. I am certain that Mrs. Jarsell is Queen Beelzebub,
for Penn says as much." He tapped his breast-pocket again.

"Oh," cried Lillian, eagerly, "what does the confession say?"

"I'll give you the gist of it," replied Halliday, quietly. "Penn begins
with a statement of his early life. He was the son of a clergyman, and his
mother is still alive. From a public school he went to Cambridge, and
thence to London, where he tried to make a living by literature. Not being
clever he did not succeed, and fell into low water. I am bound to say that
he did not trouble much about his own poverty, but seemed to be greatly
concerned on account of his mother, who is badly off--so he says. Then he
was tempted and fell, poor devil."

"Who tempted him?" demanded Mrs. Bolstreath.

"A young man whom he met when he was staying in a Bloomsbury
boarding-house, very hard up.  The man said that he belonged to a society
which could make its members rich, and proposed to introduce Penn. This
was done, in the same way, I presume, in which I was taken to these
mysterious headquarters. The first fruits of Penn's connection with Queen
Beelzebub was that Sir Charles Moon engaged him as secretary, so, getting
a good salary, he was enabled to give his mother many comforts."

Lillian looked alarmed. "But my father did not belong to the association."

"No. Of course he didn't. But Penn was placed as his secretary--the
business was managed through Curberry, who does belong to the gang--so
that he might inveigle Sir Charles into becoming a member. Penn appears to
have lost his nerve, and did not dare to persuade Sir Charles, so another
person was put on to the business. The name is not given."

"But why did Queen Beelzebub wish my father to belong to her gang?" asked
Lillian, with natural perplexity.

"The reason is plain, my dear. Sir Charles was an influential man, and
could be of great service to the association. He learned enough to show
him that a dangerous organisation existed, and then sent for Mr. Durwin,
who belonged to New Scotland Yard, so that he might reveal what he knew.
Penn learned this, since he saw the letter written by your father,
Lillian, and at once told the society. Then the false Mrs. Brown was sent
to stop Sir Charles, and--" Dan made an eloquent gesture with his hands.
There did not seem to be much need of further explanation.

"Mrs. Brown undoubtedly murdered Sir Charles," commented Mrs. Bolstreath,
in a thoughtful way, "but is she Mrs. Jarsell?"

"Penn says as much," repeated Dan, who had made the same remark earlier,
"but it is just at that point he ends. Listen, and I shall read you the
last sentence," and Halliday took the papers from his pocket. The three
sheets were intact, as Curberry only rent away the rest from the brass
clasp. At the end of the third page Halliday read, "Mrs. Jarsell of the
Grange, Hillshire, can explain how Mrs.--" Dan broke off with a frown.
"Here we come to the end of the page, and can learn no more.
Curberry burnt the most important part of the confession, which doubtless
gave full details of Mrs. Jarsell's connection with the gang."

"She could explain about Mrs. Brown, I suppose," said Lillian, quietly.

"Yes. The first word over the page is, I am certain, Brown. What is more,
I believe Mrs. Jarsell and Mrs. Brown are one and the same."

"If I see Mrs. Jarsell, I may recognise her, Dan. I saw the false Mrs.
Brown, remember, and it was because of me that she was admitted to an
interview with my father."

"If you do recognise her, which I doubt, you must not let on that you know
who she really is," Dan warned the girl; "our business just now, and until
we get more evidence, is to pretend entire ignorance of these things.
You are up in Hillshire for a change of air, Lillian, and know nothing.
Mrs. Jarsell, relying on the clever way in which she was disguised, will
never dream that you connect her with the poor woman who came on that
fatal night to see your father. You understand?"

"Quite," put in Mrs. Bolstreath, before the girl could speak, "and I shall
see that Lillian acts her part of knowing nothing."

"Remember that you deal with an extraordinarily clever woman,
Mrs. Bolstreath."

"I am a woman also, so diamond can cut diamond."

"But, Dan," asked Lillian, timidly, "do you think that Mrs. Jarsell really
did murder my father?"

"On what evidence we have, I believe she did. She murdered your father and
Durwin because they knew too much, and I should not be surprised to learn,
in spite of the verdict at the inquest, that she got rid of Penn."

"Why should she?"

"Penn let out too much to me," explained Dan, putting away the confession,
"and, in any case, was a weak sort of chap, who was a source of danger to
the society. Queen Beelzebub, who is, I believe, Mrs. Jarsell, evidently
thought it was best to silence him. I am sure that Penn did not commit
suicide, and was drowned by Mrs. Jarsell. Still, in the absence of further
evidence, we can do nothing."

"What action will you take now?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, quickly.

"Before leaving Thawley to-morrow morning," said Halliday, after a pause,
"I shall post this confession to Laurance, and tell him to make use of it
only should he hear that anything happens to me."

"Or to me," chimed in Lillian, and looked a trifle nervous.

"My dear, nothing can happen to you," said Dan, decidedly, "cheek by jowl,
as it were, with Mrs. Jarsell, you are perfectly safe. Queen Beelzebub
confines her doings to London and keeps the name of Mrs. Jarsell clean in
Hillshire, for obvious reasons. The Grange is her place of refuge, and no
one would connect an innocent country lady with criminal doings in London.
If she is what we think her to be, she will not hurt a hair of your head
in Hillshire."

"All the same, I don't intend to see her," said Lillian, determinedly.

"There is no reason that you should. She may call and try to learn why you
are staying at The Peacock Hotel, and if so, will probably ask you to The
Grange. Don't go," ended Dan, emphatically.

"Of course not," put in Mrs. Bolstreath, equally decisive; "leave that to
me, since I am responsible for Lillian."

"You can say that I am ill with nerves or consumption, or something," said
the girl, vaguely. "I don't want to meet the woman if she murdered
my father."

"If you do," said Dan, impressively, "don't reveal your suspicions," and
then he went on to instruct the two ladies how they were to behave in the
enemy's country. That they were safe there, so long as they pretended
ignorance, Dan did not doubt, but should Mrs. Jarsell learn that they knew
so much about her, she might adopt a counsel of despair and strike. It did
not do to drive so dangerous a woman into a corner.

For the rest of the journey very little was said. The subject had been
thoroughly threshed out. Lillian had been informed of what was going on,
and all plans had been made for the future. The girl was to live at The
Peacock and see Miss Vincent, and chat with Mrs. Pelgrin, and take walks
and admire the country, and to conduct herself generally as one who came
simply for a change of air. If she did not go to The Grange--and on the
plea of illness, she could excuse herself from going--Mrs. Jarsell could
not harm her in any way. And, indeed, even if Mrs. Jarsell did succeed in
getting her to come to afternoon tea, Dan had a plan in his head whereby
to ensure Lillian against any use being made of the Sumatra scent. It was
a daring thing to take Miss Moon into the jaws of the lion, yet that very
daring would probably prove to be her safeguard. But Halliday had done
what he could to guard against the events of a threatening future, and now
could only wait to see what would take place. At the moment there was
nothing more to be done.

In due course the train arrived at Thawley Station, and Dan singled out
George Pelgrin to convey luggage to a cab. Mindful of his last tip, George
displayed great alacrity in performing his duties as porter, and, what is
more, when he received another half-crown gave inadvertently a piece of
valuable information, which Halliday was far from expecting.

"That's the second two-and-six since yesterday," said George, spitting on
the coin for luck. "Mrs. Jarsell gave me the same when she came back
yesterday evening."

"Oh!" Dan was startled, but did not show it, "your Sheepeak friend has
been to London then?"

"Went a couple of days ago, and came back last night," said Pelgrin, "and
she says to me, 'George, look after my traps, for you're the only smart
porter in this station,' she says. Ah, she's a kind lady is Mrs. Jarsell,
and that civil as never was. There's the luggage in the cab all right,
Sir. The Vulcan Hotel? Yes, sir. Drive on, cabby."

Mrs. Bolstreath and Lillian had not heard this conversation, but Dan
pondered over it on the way to the hotel. Mrs. Jarsell had then been in
London at the time of Penn's death, and probably--although he could not
prove this--she was responsible for the same. When the young man arrived
at the hotel, and the ladies went to rest, he wrote a letter to Laurance,
detailing the new fact he had learned, and instructed him what use to make
of the confession if anything happened to himself in Hillshire. Then he
enclosed the confession and went out personally to register the packet.
Once it was posted he felt that he had done all that was possible.

"And now," said Dan, to himself, "we'll see what more Queen Beelzebub
will make."



Chapter XVI. DAN'S DIPLOMACY

Mrs. Pelgrin welcomed her unexpected guests with great delight and showed
her appreciation of their coming by emphatic aggressiveness. Why she
should mask a kind heart and an excellent disposition by assuming a
brusque demeanour is not very clear, but certainly the more amiable she
felt the more disagreeable did she become. In fact, the landlady appeared
to believe that honesty of purpose was best shown by blunt speeches and
abrupt movements. Consequently, she did not get on particularly well with
Mrs. Bolstreath, who demanded respect and deference from underlings, which
Mrs. Pelgrin positively declined to render. She termed the chaperon "a
fine madam," in the same spirit as she had called Dan "a butterfly," and
was always ready for a war of words. But, admiring Lillian's gay and
lively character, she waited on the girl hand and foot, yet with an air of
protest to hide the real satisfaction she felt at having her in the house.
To Mrs. Pelgrin, Lillian was a goddess who had descended from high Olympus
to mingle for a time with mere mortals.

Out of consideration for Halliday's desire to seek safety for Lillian by
placing her under the guns of the enemy, Mrs. Bolstreath decided to remain
a week at The Peacock Hotel. Later she arranged to go to Hartlepool in
Durhamshire, where she and her charge could find shelter with two
spinsters who kept a school. The chaperon admitted that she felt uneasy in
the near vicinity of Queen Beelzebub, and all Dan's assurance could not
quieten her fears. She thought that he was playing too bold a game, and
that ill would come of the stay at Sheepeak. Lillian was more confident,
always confident that Dan could do no wrong, and she was quite indifferent
to Mrs. Jarsell's doings. However, she agreed to go to Hartlepool, and as
Mrs. Bolstreath was bent upon the change, Halliday accepted the situation.

Meanwhile, he decided to call at The Grange on some innocent pretext and
diplomatically give Queen Beelzebub to understand that he held the winning
card in the game he was playing with the Society of Flies. This could be
done, he ventured to think, by pretending that Mrs. Jarsell knew nothing
about the nefarious association, and he did not believe that she would
remove her mask, since it was to her interest to observe secrecy in
Hillshire. However, he left this matter of a call and an explanation in
abeyance for the time being, and for a couple of days attended to the
three ladies. The third, it is needless to say, was Mildred Vincent, who
called at The Peacock Hotel on receipt of her lover's letter. She gave Dan
to understand that he was out of favour with the inventor.

"Uncle has never forgiven you for not winning the race," said Mildred, at
afternoon tea; "he says you should have gained the prize."

"I wish I had," said Halliday, drily, "the money would have been very
acceptable. It was my fancy-flying did the mischief, as I broke the
rudder. However, I shall call and apologise."

"He won't see you, Mr. Halliday."

"Ah, that's so like an inventor, who is as touchy as a minor poet."

"Mrs. Jarsell is annoyed also," continued Mildred, sadly; "she says you
should have made a better use of the favour she procured for you."

"It seems to me that I am in hot water all round, Miss Vincent. All the
same, I shall survive these dislikes."

"It is absurd," cried Lillian, with indignation. "Dan risked his life to
win the race, and if he hadn't had such bad luck he would have won."

"Thanks, my dear girl, but it was less bad luck than carelessness, and a
certain amount of vanity, to show how I could handle the machine."

"You are very modest, Dan," said Mrs. Bolstreath, laughing.

"It is my best quality," replied Halliday, with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Where is Mr. Vincent's machine now?" questioned Mildred.

"At Blackheath stored away. I suppose, as it was only lent I shall have to
return it to your uncle. But I shall have a final fly on it when I go back
to London in a few days."

"Does Miss Moon go back also?"

"Not to London," interposed Mrs. Bolstreath, "we propose to visit some
friends in Scotland."

Lillian looked up in surprise, as Hartlepool certainly was not in
Scotland, and she thought that Mrs. Bolstreath's geography was at fault.
But a significant look from Dan showed her that he understood why the
wrong address had been given. Mrs. Bolstreath, with too much zeal,
mistrusted Mildred, although she had no cause to do so. Certainly Mildred,
in perfect innocence, did she know the actual destination, might tell her
uncle, who would assuredly tell Mrs. Jarsell, and for obvious reasons it
was not necessary that Mrs. Jarsell should learn where the city of refuge
was situated. All the same, Dan did not think for a moment that Mildred
knew anything about the Society of Flies. But he was beginning to fancy
that Vincent had some such knowledge, as Mrs. Jarsell financed him, and
that she would not do so, he was positive, unless she made something out
of the business. It was very convenient for Queen Beelzebub to have an
inventor at her elbow who could construct swift aeroplanes. And it was at
this point of his meditations that Dan jumped up so suddenly as to spill
his tea.

"What's the matter?" asked Lillian, making a dash at the cup and saucer to
save breakage.

"I've got an idea," said Halliday, with a gasp. "I must go out and think
it over," and without excusing himself further, he rushed from the room.

"That's not like Dan," remarked Mrs. Bolstreath, uneasily; "he is calm and
cool-headed as a rule. I wonder what is the matter."

"Oh, he'll tell us when he comes back," replied Lillian, philosophically.
"I can always trust Dan." Then she turned the conversation in a somewhat
heedless manner. "Do you like living here, Miss Vincent?"

"Well," admitted Mildred, "it is rather too quiet for my taste. But I have
plenty to do in looking after my uncle and his business. He depends so
much on me, that I wonder what he will do when I get married."

"When do you intend to get married?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, curiously.
She could not disabuse herself of the idea that, living so close to Mrs.
Jarsell, and having an uncle who was helped by Mrs. Jarsell, the girl knew
something about the Society of Flies.

"Next year, the year after--I don't exactly know. It all depends upon my
dear Freddy's success. We must have a home and an income. But I suppose we
shall marry sooner or later, and then Mrs. Jarsell can look after
Uncle Solomon."

"Who is Mrs. Jarsell?" asked Lillian, artfully and cautiously.

"Se is an old lady who lives at The Grange with another old lady, her
former governess, Miss Armour. Both are charming. If you are dull here,
perhaps, Miss Moon, you would like to meet them?"

"Later, later," put in Mrs. Bolstreath, hurriedly; "thank you for the
suggestion, Miss Vincent. Meanwhile, we wish to explore the country. It is
a charming neighbourhood, although very quiet in many respects."

Mildred agreed and then began to plan excursions to this place and that,
with the idea of making the stay of the visitors at Sheepeak pleasant.
So agreeably did she behave and took such trouble in designing trips that
Mrs. Bolstreath revised her opinion and began to believe that so nice a
girl could not possibly know of Mrs. Jarsell's doings, whatever knowledge
her uncle might be possessed of.

And Dan, walking at top speed along the high road in a vain attempt to
quieten his mind, was convinced that the inventor had some such knowledge.
The idea which had brought him to his feet, and had sent him out to work
off his excitement, was that the inventor was responsible for Mrs.
Jarsell's presence in London at unexpected moments. She financed him and
retained him at her elbow, so to speak, that she might utilise his
capabilities and his clever inventions. If, on the day of the London to
York race, Mrs. Jarsell was at The Peacock Hotel about the hour of nine
o'clock--as she certainly was on the evidence of Mrs. Pelgrin, who had no
obvious reason to tell a lie--she could not have got to London by train or
motor in time to murder Durwin. Yet she was assuredly at Blackheath, if
the cinematograph was to be believed. Dan had hitherto been puzzled to
reconcile apparent impossibilities, but at tea-time the solution of the
problem had suddenly flashed into his mind. Mrs. Jarsell had travelled to
town on an aeroplane.

"It is about one hundred and sixty miles from this place to town,"
muttered Dan, walking very fast, and talking aloud to himself in his
excitement, "so she could accomplish that distance with ease in three
hours, considering that Vincent's machine can fly at sixty miles in sixty
minutes. He said so and I proved that he spoke truly when I experimented
with the machine he lent me. Mrs. Jarsell was at The Peacock Hotel at nine
o'clock, and the cinematograph showed she was at Blackheath at one
o'clock. The race started then, and Durwin was killed shortly afterwards.
Sixty miles an hour means one hundred and eighty miles in three hours.
Say she started at half-past nine--which she could easily do. Leaving Mrs.
Pelgrin immediately for Vincent's place--she could reach London by
half-past twelve, if not earlier, seeing she had just one hundred and
sixty miles to go. There would be no difficulty in her reaching Blackheath
and stabbing Durwin at the time the death took place; and, of course, had
she travelled from Sheepeak to Thawley to catch the London express at nine
o'clock, she could not have been at The Peacock Hotel at that hour. The
aeroplane had been used to establish an alibi."

Halliday was convinced that in this way the miracle of Mrs. Jarsell had
taken place. No other means of transit could have landed her at the place
where Durwin had met with his death. Of course, this assumption intimated
that Mrs. Jarsell was an accomplished aviator, and that there had been no
hitch in the journey from Sheepeak to Blackheath. But these were not
impossibilities, for Vincent probably had taught the woman how to fly, and
perhaps had handled the machine himself. There was room for two in the
aeroplane, as Dan very well knew, since he had taken Penn for a flight
himself, and the vehicle used was probably built on the same lines as the
one lent. Since aviation was yet in its infancy there was certainly a
possibility that such a journey could not take place without accidents or
hindrance. But, as inferior machines had accomplished greater distances,
Dan quite believed that Mrs. Jarsell, with or without Vincent as pilot,
had reached London in one smooth stretch of flying. On other occasions she
might not have been so successful, but on this one she probably had, for
to get to Blackheath in time to commit the crime it would have been
necessary for her to use rightfully every second of the given time.
No wonder with such a means of transit at her disposal she could prove an
advantageous alibi, when occasion demanded. Also, since the late conquest
of the air afforded her the opportunity of swift travelling, greatly in
excess of other human inventions, it was quite reasonable that she should
live so far from the scene of her criminal exploits.

Thinking thus, Halliday stumbled across the very person who was in his
thought. He rushed with bent head along the roads and unconsciously
mounted towards the vast spaces of the moorlands, stretching under grey
skies. Thus--and he swiftly decided that the collision was meant--he ran
into Mrs. Jarsell, who approached in the opposite direction. She laughed
and expostulated, as if Dan was in the wrong, although she must have seen
him coming, and the road was wide enough for her to move to one side.

"Really, Mr. Halliday, you require the whole country to move in," said
Mrs. Jarsell in her heavy way, and with an affectation of joviality.

"I--I--I beg pardon," stammered Dan, not quite himself, and stared at her
as though she had suddenly risen out of the earth. Indeed, so far as he
was concerned, she had done so, ignorant as he was of her approach.

The woman was arrayed in her favourite white, but as the day was chilly,
she wore a voluminous cloak of scarlet silk quilted and padded and warm
both in looks and wear. Her black eyes, set in her olive-hued face, peered
from under her white hair as watchfully as ever. At the present moment,
her heavy countenance wore an expression of amusement at the startled
looks of the young man, and she commented on them with ponderous
jocularity.

"One would think I was a ghost, Mr. Halliday. You will admit that I am a
very substantial ghost," and she shook her silver-mounted can playfully
at him.

"I didn't expect to meet you here," said Dan, drawing a deep breath, and
thinking how best he could introduce the subject of Lillian.

"Nor did I expect to meet you," responded Mrs. Jarsell, still
phlegmatically playful. "Have you risen from the earth, or dropped from
the skies? I did not even know that you were in the neighbourhood."

Dan grimly decided that this last statement was false, since he had been a
whole two days at The Peacock Hotel, and he was certain Mrs. Jarsell must
have heard of his visit. Also of the ladies sheltering under Mrs.
Pelgrin's wing, for in the country gossip is more prevalent than in town.
"I came up for a day or two, or three or four," said Dan, still staring.

"You don't appear to be very decided in your own mind," rejoined Mrs.
Jarsell, drily, and sat down on a large block of granite, which was
embedded amongst the heather; "our neighbourhood evidently has a
fascination for you," her eye searched his face carefully. "I am pleased,
as we are proud of our scenery hereabouts. Those who come once, come
twice: quite a proverb, isn't it? Is your friend Mr. Laurance with you?"

"Not on this occasion," answered Dan, coolly, and coming to the point.
"I came with two ladies, Miss Moon and her companion. They are stopping at
The Peacock Hotel for a short time."

"Miss Moon! Miss Moon!" mused Mrs. Jarsell, "oh, yes, the young lady you
are engaged to marry. The daughter of that poor man who was murdered."

"You have an excellent memory, Mrs. Jarsell."

"We have little to exercise our memories in this dull place," said the
woman graciously, and with a motherly air, "you don't ask after Miss
Armour, I observe. That is very unkind of you, as you are a great
favourite with her."

"Miss Armour is my very good friend," responded Halliday, cautiously, "and
so are you, since you induced Mr. Vincent to lend me the aeroplane."

"I am as glad that I did that, as I am sorry you lost the race,
Mr. Halliday."

"Fortune of war," said Dan, lightly, "we can't always be successful you
know, Mrs. Jarsell. I wish you had seen the start; it was grand."

"I wish I had," said the woman, lying glibly, "but it was impossible for
me to leave Miss Armour on that day, as she had bad health. In fact, Mr
Vincent wished to go also and see how his machine worked; but he could not
get away either. Still," added Mrs. Jarsell, with a cheerful air, "perhaps
it is as well, so far as I am concerned, that I could not go.
Aviation seems to be very dangerous, and I should have been afraid for
your safety."

"Oh, I shall never come to harm in the air, I hope," responded Dan, with
emphasis, "you must let me take you up some day."

Mrs. Jarsell shuddered. "I should be terrified out of my wits," she
protested, "fancy a heavy woman such as I am, trying to emulate a bird.
Why, I am quite sure I would fall and smash like an egg, even supposing
there is any machine capable of bearing my none too trifling weight."

"Oh, I think there is, Mrs. Jarsell. Some machines can carry two you know,
and lately in France, an aviator took five or six people from one given
point to another. It is quite safe."

Mrs. Jarsell shook her head seriously. "I think not, since aviation is yet
in its infancy. In five years, if I live as long, I may venture, but now
--no thank you, Mr. Halliday."

"Most ladies are afraid, certainly. Even Miss Moon, who is plucky, will
not let me take her for a fly."

"Miss Moon, of course. I was quite forgetting her. I hope you will bring
her to see me and Miss Armour."

"If she stays here, certainly. But I think of returning to town to-morrow,
so I may not be able to bring her. I daresay Mrs. Bolstreath will,
however," ended Dan, quite certain in his own mind that the chaperon would
find some good excuse to avoid the visit.

"I shall be delighted," Mrs. Jarsell murmured vaguely; "how have you been,
Mr. Halliday, since I saw you last?"

It seemed to Dan that she asked this question with intention, and he was
entirely willing to give her a frank answer. In frankness, as in taking
Lillian under the guns of the enemy lay the safety of both. Halliday was
convinced of this. "I have been rather worried," he said, slowly, and with
a side-glance at Mrs. Jarsell's watchful face. "I had an adventure."

"I love adventures," replied the woman, heavily, "and this one?"

"Well. I was hustled into a taxi-cab and carried in a drugged condition to
some place where I met with a collection of scoundrels. A kind of
murder-gang, you might call it, who slay, blackmail, and thieve for the
sake of power."

"Rather a strange reason," said Mrs. Jarsell, equably, and not at all
moved. "I should say the reason was money."

"That, with power," explained Dan; "but, indeed, this society appears to
be governed on wonderful principles, such as one would ascribe to
honest men."

"In what way?" Mrs. Jarsell was quite curious in a detached manner.

"Well, the members are chaste and sober and industrious."

"They must be virtuous. You are describing a society of saints."

"Quite so; only these saints apply their virtues to crime. They have a
head who is called Queen Beelzebub."

Mrs. Jarsell shuddered and drew lines on the dust of the road with her can
slowly and carefully. "Did you see her?" she asked, "it's a horrid name,
full of horrid possibilities."

"No, I did not see her or any one," said Dan, frankly; "the room was in
darkness save for a red light round Queen Beelzebub's mask."

"Oh, this person wore a mask! How did you know she was a woman?"

"Well, you see the name is Queen Beelzebub."

"That might be taken by a man to hide the truth."

"It might," admitted the other carelessly, "and indeed, I don't think that
any woman would have the nerve to belong to such a gang."

"I agree with you," said Mrs. Jarsell, gravely, "well, and what happened?"

"I was asked by Queen Beelzebub to join the gang and share the profits,
which you may guess are large. I have a month to think over the matter."

Mrs. Jarsell looked at him keenly. "surely, you would never belong to such
an organisation," she said with a reproachful tone in her heavy voice."

"Oh, I don't know. I have my own axe to grind like other people, and if
this gang helps me to grind it I may consider the offer. Do I shock you,
Mrs. Jarsell? Your voice sounded as though I did."

"You shock me more than I can say," she replied decisively; "that an
honest man should even think of such a thing is dreadful. This gang should
be denounced to the police. I wonder you have not done so already."

Dan shook his head and admired the cool, clever way in which she was
playing a very dangerous game, though to be sure, she was far from
suspecting that he guessed her connection with Queen Beelzebub.

"I can't do that yet."

"What do you mean by--yet?" questioned Mrs. Jarsell, and this time, there
was a distinct note of alarm in her voice.

"I risk death if I denounce the gang, not only to myself, but to Miss
Moon. I am sure she and I would be killed as her father was killed, if I
moved in the matter. Also, I am not sure of many things."

Mrs. Jarsell, still drawing patterns, spoke thoughtfully. "I don't think
you are wise to speak of this gang if it is so dangerous, even to a
country mouse such as I am. Of course, I shall say nothing, as I have no
one to say anything to, and if I had I should not speak. But if you talk
to a stranger like me, about things you were told to keep secret, you or
Miss Moon may be murdered."

"I thought so a week ago," admitted Halliday, candidly.

"Then you don't think so now."

"No. Not since Marcus Penn died."

Mrs. Jarsell drew a long breath and wriggled uneasily. "Who is
Marcus Penn?"

"Well, he was the secretary of Sir Charles Moon, and afterwards he was the
secretary of Lord Curberry. Now he's a corpse."

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Jarsell, suddenly, "I wish you wouldn't talk of these
horrible things. Has this gang--"

"Murdered him?" finished the young man; "yes, I believe so, although a
verdict of suicide was brought in. But poor Penn's death may be the means
of saving me and Miss Moon."

"Indeed," the woman's tone became harsh and imperative, but she did not
ask any questions.

"Yes. He left a confession."

Even the side-glance Dan sent in Mrs. Jarsell's direction showed him that
her olive cheeks had turned to a dead white. However, she said nothing,
although she moistened her lips slowly, so he went on easily as if he were
telling an idle story. "This confession was concealed in Lord Curberry's
house, but Penn sent a note of its whereabouts to Miss Moon, who told me.
I got the confession and placed it in safe keeping."

"That was wise," said Mrs. Jarsell, with an effort. "And the safe keeping?"

"Oh, I shall only tell the whereabouts of the confession and the name of
the person who holds it when there is no necessity for the confession to
be used."

"I don't see quite what you mean, Mr. Halliday."

"Well, you see, Mrs. Jarsell, I have to protect myself and Miss Moon from
the machinations of the society. The person who holds the confession will
not open the sealed envelope in which it is placed unless something
happens to Miss Moon or to myself. Therefore, so long as no member of the
gang hurts us the secrets of the gang are quite safe."

To his attentive ear it seemed that Mrs. Jarsell drew a long breath of
relief. With a command of herself which did her credit, she displayed no
emotion but observed playfully, "It is very clever of you and very wise to
guard yourself in this way. Certainly the gang cannot hurt you in any way
so long as there is a danger of the confession being opened in the event
of things happening to you or to Miss Moon. I suppose the confession is a
very dreadful one, Mr. Halliday?"

"It is not so dreadful or so full as I should like it to be," said Dan, in
his calmest manner; "but there is sufficient set down to warrant the
interference of the authorities. If that confession comes to the notice of
the Scotland Yard officials they can lay hands on the gang"; he was
bluffing when he said this, as he was not quite sure if Curberry had not
let Mrs. Jarsell know that the confession--as Curberry thought--had
been destroyed.

"I think the police should know," said Mrs. Jarsell, rising.

"Thank you for nothing," said Dan, following her example; "but if I move
in the matter, I run the risk of death. Besides, I may accept the offter
of the society. Who knows?"

"Don't do that," implored Mrs. Jarsell so earnestly that Dan was convinced
Curberry had not told her of any confession, "it's so wicked."

"Perhaps it is. However, if these beasts leave me and Miss Moon alone, the
confession won't be opened and the gang is safe. Otherwise--"

"Otherwise the whole association will be exposed to the danger of arrest,"
said Mrs. Jarsell, lightly; "well, it sounds all very dreadful to a
country lady as I am. I wish you had not told me. Why did you tell me?"

"Because," said Dan, ironically, "I look upon you as a friend."

Mrs. Jarsell's face cleared and she smiled. "I am your friend," she said
in an emphatic way, "and believe me, when I say that I am sure Miss Moon
is safe."

"Thank you," replied Dan, agreeably, "I am sure also."

Then they parted with mutual compliments, smiles, and handshakes.



Chapter XVII. AT BAY

When Dan left Mrs. Jarsell he was very well pleased with the promise she
had given concerning the safety of Lillian. He fully believed that she, in
her role of Queen Beelzebub, would keep that promise faithfully, if only
because her own interests demanded such honesty. The fact that the
confession of Penn was in the hands of a third party to be made use of
should anything happen to Miss Moon, prevented the Society of Flies from
carrying out the threat made to him at the secret meeting. To save their
own lives the members would be forced--much against their will no doubt
--to spare those of Lillian and himself. Dan chuckled at the way in which
he had circumvented the deadly organisation. But he had only scotched the
snake, he had not killed it, and until he did so there was always the
chance that it would strike when able to do so with safety. But while
Penn's confession remained in Laurance's hands, all was well.

One thing struck Halliday as strange, and that was the persistence with
which Mrs. Jarsell kept up the comedy of
having-nothing-to-do-with-the-matter during so confidential a
conversation. She knew that Penn had been a doubtful member of her gang;
she knew that he had been despatched--as Dan truly believed--because he
was not to be trusted, and now she knew that he had left a confession
behind him, which was in the hands of her enemies. Also, she was aware
that the man who spoke to her had read the confession and must have
guessed that her name, as Queen Beelzebub, was mentioned therein. This
being the case, it was to be presumed that she would speak freely, but in
place of doing so, she had pretended ignorance, and for his own ends he
had humoured her feigning. Either she doubted that such a confession
existed or she guessed in whose possession it was, and intended to regain
it.

"Queen Beelzebub knows well enough that Freddy is my best friend," thought
Dan, as he returned to The Peacock Hotel, "and it would be reasonable for
her to believe that he had Penn's confession, which is certainly the case.
I should not be at all surprised if Freddy was inveigled into a trap as I
was, so that he might be forced to surrender the document or rather what
remains of it. If that were managed, Queen Beelzebub would revenge herself
on Lillian and on me, since there would be nothing left to shielf us from
her spite. And in any case Freddy is in danger, as I am certain she
guesses that he holds the confession." He mused for a few moments, and
then added, aloud, "I shall return to town at once and see him."

The more he thought the more he saw the necessity of doing this.
Mrs. Jarsell's first move to counterplot him would be to seek out Lord
Curberry and learn all she could, relative to what Penn had left behind
him. Certainly Curberry would assure her that he had burnt the confession,
in which case Queen Beelzebub would think that she would be free to act.
But Halliday believed she was of too suspicious a nature to be quite
convinced that he had only bluffed. Before taking any steps she would
decidedly ascertain for certain--although in what way it was difficult to
say--if there really was any compromising document in Laurance's hands.
To do so, she would, as Dan had thought a few minutes before, set a trap
for him, and brow-beat him into stating what he knew and what he held.
Therefore, for Freddy's sake, it was necessary to go to London, and report
in detail the conversation on the moor. Then the two could arrange what
was best to be done. They were dealing with a coterie of daring
scoundrels, who would stop at nothing to secure their own safety, and it
behoved them to move warily. "We are walking on a volcano," was Halliday's
concluding reflection.

Of course, as it was useless to alarm the ladies, Dan said nothing of his
meeting with Queen Beelzebub on the moor. However, on being questioned, he
confessed the sudden thought which had sent him out of doors, and both
Lillian and Mrs. Bolstreath agreed that it was entirely probable that Mrs.
Jarsell did travel in up-to-date aeroplanes, like a mischief-making fairy.
Then in turn, they told him that Mildred had stayed for quite a long time
and was altogether more charming on each occasion she appeared.
She suggested many trips and Mrs. Bolstreath was inclined to stay at
Sheepeak longer than she intended in spite of the near menace of Queen
Beelzebub. Lillian was delighted with the lovely scenery, so gracious
after the drab hues of London.

"I don't see why we shouldn't get a house here after we are married," she
said to her lover, "one of those delicious old manor houses of faded
yellow stone. I could live quietly with Mrs. Bolstreath, while you ran up
to business on your aeroplane."

"And all the time you would be fretting lest any harm came to him," said
the chaperon, shaking her head; "besides, my dear, when you are married,
you won't want me to be with you."

"Dear Bolly, I shall always want you, and so will Dan."

"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Bolstreath, briskly, "two's company and three's
none."

"Well," remarked Halliday, leisurely, "we can settle the matter when we
are married, Lillian. Remember, before your uncle will consent, I shall
have to discover who murdered your father."

"You have discovered who murdered him. It was the false Mrs. Brown, who is
Mrs. Jarsell, who is Queen Beelzebub."

"So I believe, but I have to prove my case," said Dan, drily, "and,
moreover, I won't find it easy to place the woman in the dock when she has
this accursed society at the back of her."

"You don't think there is danger?" asked Lillian, hastily.

"No, no, no! Things are safer than ever, my dear. I go to town this
evening and can leave you here with the certainty that all is well."

"You go to town this evening?" said Mrs. Bolstreath, anxiously; "isn't
that a very sudden resolution?"

"Oh, I think not," answered Dan, in an easy way, "I came down here only to
settle you and Lillian. By the way, Sir John--"

"I wired our address, and he wrote me," interrupted Mrs. Bolstreath; "he
is quite pleased that we are away. I rather think," the lady added,
thoughtfully, "that Sir John is not ill-pleased we are away. At his age
the constant presence of two women in his house is rather disconcerting.
Finding we had left town, he returned there to enjoy having his own house
to himself."

"In that case," said Dan, cheerfully, "he will be glad to see Lillian
married."

"But to Lord Curberry, not to you."

"I would die rather than marry Lord Curberry," said Lillian, decisively,
and with her chin in the air.

"You won't be asked to do either one or the other, my dear," replied Dan,
in his calmest tone. "We shall marry right enough whatever opposition Sir
John may make. As to Lord Curberry," he hesitated.

"Well?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, impatiently.

"I intend to see him when I return to town."

"I think it will be as well. Better have a complete understanding with him
so that he will not worry Lillian any more."

"He won't," answered Dan, grimly, "and now I shall have to get away. I see
Mrs. Pelgrin has had the trap brought round. Take care of Lillian."

Lillian kissed her lover and followed him to the door of the sitting-room
with a gay laugh. "Lillian can look after herself," she said lightly,
"I am not afraid of Mrs. Jarsell or of any one else. But you take care,
Dan. I fear much more for you than for myself."

"I'm all right!" Dan, with an Englishman's dislike for an emotional scene,
kissed the girl again and slipped out of the door. They saw him drive away
in the gloom of the evening, and then settled to make themselves
comfortable. Neither Lillian nor Mrs. Bolstreath would admit as much, but
both felt rather downcast at Dan's sudden departure. Luckily, as he had
been so cool and composed, they did not connect it with any fresh
development likely to give trouble. In some vague way Mrs. Bolstreath
guessed that Dan had spiked the guns of the enemy under which they were
encamped, and her certainty of safety being infectious, Lillian also felt
quite at her ease.

Meanwhile, Dan reached the Beswick station in the ramshackle trap and was
lucky enough to catch the in-going train to Thawley, just as it started to
glide past the platform. The fortunate connection enabled him to board the
7.20 p.m. express to London, where he hoped to arrive shortly before
eleven that same evening. Knowing that Laurance's work kept him up late at
night, he wired from Thawley, asking him to come to St. Pancras Station.
Important as was Freddy's time, Dan knew that he would respond to the call
at once, guessing what large issues would be the outcome of the present
situation. Therefore, as the train dropped south, Halliday felt quite
comfortable, as he had done all he could to arrange matters for the
moment. Indeed, so assured did he feel that he had taken all possible
precautions, that he did not even trouble to think over the matter, but
fell asleep and refreshed his weary brain and body. Only when the train
arrived at St. Pancras did he tumble out, sleepy still, to catch a sight
of his faithful friend on the platform.

"Nothing wrong?" asked Laurance, hurrying up.

"Nothing wrong," responded Dan, with a yawn, "but I have much to talk to
you about. Get a four-wheeler."

"A taxi, you mean."

"I don't mean. I wish to travel as slowly as possible, so as to explain
matters. Tell the man to drive to 'The Moment' office. There I can drop
you and go on to my rooms."

Thus understanding the situation, Freddy selected a shaky old cab, drawn
by a shaky old horse, and the rate at which it progressed through the
brilliantly-lighted streets was so slow that they were a very long time
arriving at 'The Moment' office in Fleet Street. In the damp-smelling
interior of this antique conveyance, Halliday, now quite alert and
clear-headed, gave his friend a full account of all that had happened,
particularly emphasising the interview with Mrs. Jarsell.

"H'm," commented Freddy, when he ended, "so she didn't give herself away?"

"No. And very wisely too, I think. She didn't know how much I knew, and
wasn't keen on giving me rope to hang her."

"But she knows you have read Penn's confession--what there is of it."

"I didn't tell her that I had anything else than the full confession, old
son. She may think I have the whole document intact, or--and this I fancy
is probable--she may believe that there isn't any confession in existence."

"Curberry may have written to her, telling her that he burnt the
confession."

"No," said Dan, after a pause, "I really don't think he has done that.
Mrs. Jarsell went dead white when I mentioned a confession."

"Then she believes that you spoke the truth," persisted Laurance,
hopefully.

"She may, or she may not, as I said before," retorted Halliday, "anyhow,
as she can't be sure if I'm in jest or earnest, she will delay proceedings
until she sees Curberry. If he swears that he burnt the confession, Mrs.
Jarsell may act; therefore I want you to send him an unsigned telegram,
containing these three words, "All is discovered!""

"What will that do?"

"Put the fear of God into Curberry, into Queen Beelzebub, and into the
Society of Flies as a whole. The warning will be so vague that they won't
know who will strike the blow."

"They will suspect you, Dan."

"In that case," replied Halliday, promptly, "Queen Beelzebub will leave
Lillian alone, and my object will be obtained. I want to gain time, and
can only do so with safety to Lillian by keeping these beasts in a state
of uncertainty as to how much or how little is known."

"I see," Laurance thought the plan a good one; "since you say that you
have the confession and Curberry will say that he destroyed it, Queen
Beelzebub will be undecided. This telegram, like a bolt from the blue,
will clinch matters and make her and her gang pause before they take steps
to hurt you or Miss Moon. I'll send the wire. What then?"

"Then--to-morrow that is--I go down to see Curberry, and have it out with
him. His name is mentioned in the portion of the confession which you hold
and we know enough to ensure his arrest."

"That is doubtful," protested Freddy, thoughtfully, "I have read the
confession. Penn hints a lot about Curberry, but doesn't say enough to--"

"Never mind, he says enough for my purpose, which is to scare Curberry;
belonging to the Society of Flies as he does. I believe he got his uncle
and cousin put out of the way to inherit the title and property. I'll harp
on that string. If Queen Beelzebub calls--"

"There's the danger, Dan," interposed Freddy quickly and anxiously.

"I know. I am far from suggesting that there is not danger, as we are
driving these people into a corner. If I don't turn up at your office by
five o'clock to-morrow, Freddy, or if I don't send a wire saying that I am
safe, you get Inspector Tenson, tell him all, show him the confession, and
come down with him to Blackheath to see the inspector who has charge of
the Durwin murder. Then, armed with the authority of the law, you can go
to Curberry's house. If I am missing, you will know how to act."

Laurance drew a deep breath as the cab turned into Fleet Street. "It's a
big risk for you, Dan."

"Pooh. As an aviator I am always taking risks. I must settle this business
somehow, if I wish to marry Lillian and save her life as well as my own
from these infernal beasts. Here you get down, Freddy. Don't forget to do
as I tell you," and Laurance promised to adhere faithfully to his
instructions, while the four-wheeler lumbered away in the direction of
the Strand.

Halliday possessed one of those rare natures which invariably reveal their
best in time of danger. He knew what to say and how to act when in a tight
corner and his training as an aviator had learned him to take risks, which
less level-headed men would have judiciously avoided. At the present
moment he required all his energies to cope with unforeseen emergencies,
since he did not quite know what action would be taken against him.
Of course he was confident that some sort of action would be taken, since
he had aroused the wrath of a brilliantly clever and intensely evil set of
people. Fearful for its own safety, the Society of Flies would do its best
to get rid of him and to get rid of Lillian, as its members had got rid of
others who had stood in their crooked path. Both he and the girl were
safeguarded so far by the confession, but it all depended upon what
Curberry said to Queen Beelzebub as to how long such a safeguard would be
efficacious. He had told the woman one story, but Curberry would tell her
another, so it was doubtful which she would believe. The telegram from an
unknown source might turn the balance in his favour, and lead both Mrs.
Jarsell and her friends to believe that there was a chance of their
devilish doings coming to light. Having arrived at this conclusion, Dan
fell asleep, quite indifferent to the fact that the sword of Damocles hung
over his head, and that the single hair might part at any moment.
Herein he showed the steadiness of his nerves, and the value of a nature
trained to face the worst smilingly.

Next morning Halliday arose brisk and cheerful, with the expectation of
having a most exciting day, and as soon as he finished his breakfast made
his way, by train, to Blackheath. On arriving there, somewhere about
twelve o'clock, he did not go immediately to Curberry's house, but walked
to the place where the Vincent aeroplane was housed. It had just struck
him that Mrs. Jarsell might have wired to one of her friends to damage the
machine, so that it could not be used. She had procured it for him and he
--to put it plainly--had abused her friendship, so it was not likely she
would permit him to retain, unharmed, a wonderful airship, with which he
could make money and win fame. But when he reached the shed and saw the
man whom he had engaged to watch the machine, he found that his fears were
groundless. No one had been near the place, and, so far as he could
ascertain, the aeroplane was in perfect condition. Then it struck Dan, as
it was yet too early to call on Lord Curberry, that he might indulge in a
little fly. His enemy's house was only a stone's throw distant, on the
borders of the open space, and Halliday did not intend to lose sight of
the entrance gate, lest Mrs. Jarsell should steal in unobserved. In the
air, and hovering directly over the grounds, he could see all who came and
went. Also, incidentally, he might gain information as to what was going
on in the gardens. Somewhat oddly it occurred to him that if Queen
Beelzebub came, she might push Curberry into the ornamental pond, as
Marcus Penn had been pushed. There was no knowing what she might do in her
despair. In brutal English, Queen Beelzebub was at bay, and could fight,
like the rat she was, in the corner into which she was being slowly driven
by circumstances, engineered by Mr. Daniel Halliday.

Therefore, Dan saw to the fittings of the biplane, and ascertained by
sight and touch that they had not been tampered with. He oiled the engine,
saw that it did not lack petrol, and in fact was as careful of all and
everything connected with the structure as though he were preparing for a
long race. Of course there was the usual crowd of loafers who came to see
him start, and he swept upward from the ground in a graceful curve.
The aeroplane acted easily and truthfully, according to its very excellent
design, and the aviator, after making a wide circle, dropped down to pass
slowly over the grounds of Curberry's mansion. He could see no one about,
even though the day was fine and sunny, so concluded that the owner,
having received the anonymous telegram, was shivering within doors,
terrified to venture out. In his impatience to learn the absolute truth,
Dan turned his machine back to the shed, and came to rest almost at the
very door.

Owing to the examination of the aeroplane, and the experimental flight to
test its working order, time had passed uncommon swiftly, and it was now
fifteen minutes past one o'clock. Dan made up his mind to beard Curberry
in his library, without waiting for the arrival of Queen Beelzebub, who,
after all, might not arrive. His man and some willing onlookers wheeled
the machine into the great shed, and the doors were about to be closed
when one of the crowd uttered an exclamation, which was echoed by many
others. Halliday, always on the alert for the unexpected, came quickly to
the door of the building, and saw everyone looking upward and northward,
to where a small black dot spotted the blue of the sky. It increased in
size rapidly, and there was no difficulty in seeing that it was a flying-
machine. At once a thought entered Dan's mind that there was Mrs. Jarsell
on a Vincent biplane, paying her expected visit, although he had no reason
to suppose that she was the pilot. Wondering if he was right or wrong in
his surmise, he waited with a fast-beating heart, and became certain of
the truth of his guess very shortly. Travelling at a great height, the
strange biplane poised itself directly over the open space, and then began
to drop slowly into the enclosed grounds of Lord Curberry's mansion.
Not having field-glasses Halliday could not make out if the pilot was a
man or a woman, but when the machine, cleverly managed, disappeared below
the trees and walls of the park, he was convinced that Queen Beelzebub had
arrived. At once he determined to make a third at her interview with
Curberry, whatever objections might be raised. But first he arranged what
to do in order to guard against future events of a dangerous nature.

"Wheel my machine out again," he ordered the man and those who had
assisted; "see that everything is in order, and have everything prepared
to start. Do not let any one touch this," and he tapped the aeroplane;
"you understand?"

"Yes, Sir," said the man, stolidly, "you're going for another fly?"

"Exactly. The person who arrived is a friend of mine. I am going into
yonder house to ask if a race can be arranged."

Knowing that he could trust his man to guard the machine, and certain it
would not be tampered with when hundreds of eyes were watching it,
Halliday walked across the open space with serene confidence. It struck
him that if Mrs. Jarsell wished to escape, she would certainly use her
biplane, and it was just as well to follow in his own and run her to
earth. As both machines were made by Vincent, the speed of each would be
about equal, and in any case, Dan hoped to keep Queen Beelzebub in sight,
if it was necessary to give chase. Having thus prepared for possible
emergencies the young man entered the big gates of the park and hastened
up the short avenue. Soon he found himself at the front door, and as he
rang the bell, glanced round for Mrs. Jarsell's flying-machine. It was not
visible, so he presumed she had left it on the broad and spacious lawn on
the further side of the house. It was in his mind to go and tamper with
the engine to prevent her further flight, but before he could make up his
mind to this course, the door opened and the footman appeared.

"I wish to see Lord Curberry," said Halliday, giving the man his card, "on
most important business. Can he see me?"

"I'll inquire, Sir. He is with a lady just now, and has been for the last
ten minutes. Please wait here, Sir," and he introduced Dan into the hall.

Again, when left alone, Halliday had the impulse to go out and look to the
gear of the machine, with the idea of putting things wrong, and again the
footman appeared before he could decide if it would be wise to do so.
"His lordship will see you, Sir," said the man, who looked rather
uncomfortable, "but he seems to be ill."

"Ill," echoed Dan, wondering what new devilry was taking place, "and
the lady?"

"She is not with his lordship now, Sir," said the footman, in a bewildered
manner, "yet I showed her into the library a few minutes ago."

"Do you know the lady?" asked Halliday sharply.

"No, Sir. At least, I can't tell, Sir. She came in one of them
flying-machines, and wears a thick veil. She's a stout lady, sir, with a
sharp manner."

"Take me to your master," commanded Dan, not caring to inquire further,
since it was best to question Lord Curberry himself, and the man obeyed,
still bewildered and nervous in his manner. The entrance of Queen
Beelzebub into the house had evidently upset things.

Ushered into the library, Dan waited for the closing of the door, and then
advanced to where Curberry was seated at his desk, near the window.
The man looked gaunt and haggard, and very sick. When the young man
advanced he rose as if moved by springs and held out a telegram in a
trembling hand.

"You--you--sent this?" quavered Curberry, and Halliday could see that the
perspiration beaded his bald high forehead.

In a flash Halliday guessed that this was the wire which Laurance had
dispatched according to arrangement. "No, I did not send you any
telegram," he denied, calmly, and with perfect truth.

"You sent this, saying that all is discovered," stuttered Curberry again,
and dropped back into his seat, "you have learned too much. She says that
you know everything."

"Queen Beelzebub?"

"Ah, you know the name. I guessed as much. She is here; she is furious!"

"Who is Queen Beelzebub?" demanded Dan, anxiously.

"You know. Why do you ask questions you know the answer to? I know why you
have come: to have me arrested. I thought I destroyed the confession of
that infernal Penn. But she says--"

"I retained sufficient to show me--"

"Yes, yes! You know all. You have won. I fought you for Lillian, and there
is no chance of my gaining her for my wife. You won't either. You have to
reckon with Queen Beelzebub. As for me, as for me--" he faltered
and trembled.

Dan stepped right up to the desk. "What's the matter?"

"I--I--I have taken poison," gasped Curberry, and dropped his head on his
hands with a sob.



Chapter XVIII. THE FLIGHT

"Poison!" echoed Dan, startled out of his composure, for he was far from
expecting such a word, "the doctor--"

"No doctor can do me any good," sobbed Curberry lifting his haggard face,
and looking up with wild, despairing eyes, "there is no antidote to this
drug I have taken. It is painless more or less, and in an hour I shall be
dead, as it works but slowly. Time enough for me to speak."

"Let me get a doctor," insisted Halliday, for so distraught did the man
look that he was not surprised that the servant had been uncomfortable,
"you must not die without--"

Curberry struggled to his feet, and laid hands on his visitor. "No, no! I
am ready to die," he said in a harsh, strained voice; "why should I be
kept alive to be hanged--to be disgraced--to be--"

"Then you admit--"

"I admit everything in this--this," he touched a few loose sheets of paper
lying on the desk, "this confession. Like Penn, I have made one."

"You must have a doctor," said Halliday, and ran to the bell.

Curberry, with a wonderful strength, seeing how ill he looked, rose
swiftly, and sprang after him. "If you call a doctor, I shall shoot
myself," he said, hoarsely, and pulled out a small revolver. "I would
rather die by means of the poison I have taken, since it is more painless.
But sooner than be taken by the police, I shall shoot myself--and you too
--and you too."

Halliday waved aside this threat. "You won't see the police--"

"The doctor would try and save me," insisted Curberry, fiercely, "and I
will not be saved only to be hanged. Stay here and listen to me. I have
something to say. Touch the button of the bell and I shoot!"  As he spoke,
he levelled the revolver. "Quick, quick, what will you do?"

"Have your own way," agreed Halliday, and moved to the desk, where he sat
down on a convenient chair. Curberry, with a groan, returned to his seat,
and laid the revolver on the blotting-paper, ready for instant use should
necessity arise. Even as yet he did not wholly trust Halliday.

And there was cause for this suspicion. Since Dan was unarmed, he could do
nothing against a man with a quick-firing weapon, but he made up his mind
to snatch at the revolver the moment Curberry was off his guard. Yet, even
as he decided upon this course, he said to himself that it was foolish.
The man's recovery, supposing a doctor did arrive, meant the man's arrest,
and in Dan's opinion, as in Curberry's, death was better than disgrace.
It was a most uncomfortable situation, but Halliday did not see anything
to do but to listen to what his host had to say. The poor wretch had
poisoned himself, and was keeping all help at bay with his revolver.
He would be dead in an hour, or half an hour, as he hinted, so the best
thing was to hear his story in the hope that by its means those who had
brought him to this pass, could be punished. But it was a weird experience
to sit beside a tormented man, who declined to be saved from a
tragic death.

"Did Queen Beelzebub give you the poison?" asked Halliday, shivering at
the grey pinched look on Curberry's face.

"Long ago; long ago; not now," muttered the man, groaning. "Every member
of the Society of Flies has this poison to escape arrest, should there be
danger. It is a painless poison, more or less, and acts slowly, and--but I
have told you all this before. There is not much time," he pressed his
hands on his heart, "while I retain my strength and my senses, listen!"

"But where is this woman you call Queen Beelzebub?" demanded Dan, looking
round anxiously. "I saw her arrive in an aeroplane."

"She did; she came to tell me that you knew all about our society."

"You belong to it?"

"Yes, curse it! and those who dragged me into the matter. I was getting on
all right in the law, when I was tempted and fell."

"Your uncle and your cousin--"

"Yes, yes!" broke in Curberry, with another groan; "she said that if I
joined the society they could be got rid of. They were got rid of because
I wished for the title and the money."

"But for what reason?"

"So that I could marry Lillian. Moon refused to listen to me so long as I
was merely a struggling barrister. But when I became wealthy,
and--and--oh, this pain! The poison is a lie like all the rest of the
business.
She declared it was painless, and now--and now--" He broke off, to wipe
the perspiration from his face.

Dan half rose. "Let me call assistance. It may not be too late--"

Curberry pointed his revolver at him as he moved.

"It is too late," he said, setting his teeth, "if I do not die, I must
face the worst. You--you have brought me to this."

"I!" echoed Halliday, sitting down again, "in what way?"

"You meddled and meddled, and--and you sent that telegram."

"I did not."

"Then your meddling has brought the police into the matter. That telegram
may have been sent by a friend or an enemy; in either case it is true, for
all is discovered. I was--" Curberry gasped with pain again, and moistened
his dry lips. "I was sitting with it, wondering if it was best to end
things or to wait and see if the warning was a true one. Then she came in
through yonder door," he nodded towards the entrance from the terrace into
the library. "she told me that you--that you--oh--oh!" he groaned and
rocked himself from side to side, yet kept a grip on the revolver, lest
Dan should call or ring for assistance, or endeavour to secure the weapon.

"So you took the poison?" said Halliday, wondering how he could manage to
evade being shot and yet summon a doctor.

"When she said that all was known, I did. Then she--she--"

"Queen Beelzebub, you mean?"

"Curse her, yes! Like Eve she tempted me, and like Adam I fell."

"Where is she?"

"Up in Penn's old rooms, searching for any further confessions he may have
left. Oh," Curberry rocked and moaned, "I thought when I snatched it from
you, and burnt it, that all evidence was destroyed."

"I saved a few sheets."

"Do they contain mention of my name?"

"Yes. They do, and--"

"I thought so. I thought so. It's just as well that I took the poison.
The title and money I paid such a price to obtain will go to my cousin,
who is at Oxford--a young fool, with no brains. Oh, to lose all, when
everything was so bright. I could have married Lillian and served my
country, and--"

"You could not have married Lillian," interrupted Dan, positively, "for
she loves me and me only. As to serving your country, how could you with
an easy conscience, when you have broken its law by taking the lives of
your uncle and cousin?"

"I did not. The society saw to that," gasped Curberry with a twisted grin.

"You engaged the society to end their lives, you--you--murderer."

"Don't call names," moaned the man, "at least I have not murdered you,
although I have every reason to. You meddled with matters which do not
concern you."

"I meddled in matters which concern every honest man who loves law and
order, Lord Curberry," said Dan sternly; "apart from the death of Sir
Charles Moon, which I was bound to avenge for Lillian's sake, it was my
duty to stop this wholesale murder. Perhaps you had Moon killed yourself."

"I didn't; I didn't. It was to my interest that he should live, for if he
had I should have been married to his daughter by this time.
Queen Beelzebub murdered him because he was offered a chance of belonging
to the society and refused."

"In that," said Dan, still sternly, "acting as an honest man."

"He acted as a foolish man. For learning too much, he sent for Durwin to
reveal what he knew. Penn found out his intended treachery, and told the
Queen. She came--you saw her when she came--and she killed him."

"She killed Durwin?"

"Yes," gasped Curberry, who was growing whiter and more haggard
every moment.

"And Marcus Penn?"

"I killed him. I had to, or be killed myself. He betrayed too much
to you."

"Only out of fear," said Dan, looking at the murderer more with pity than
with anger, for he was suffering greatly.

"Not even fear should have made him reveal anything about the scent.
He confessed his folly and was doomed to death. I went away on that day,
and then came back secretly, having ordered Penn to meet me by the
ornamental water, to speak about the society. He suspected something,
because he wrote that confession and let Lillian know where it was
concealed. But he came, and I managed to stupefy him with the Sumatra
scent, after which I thrust him under water, and when I was sure he was
dead, I got away secretly, returning openly to hear that his body had
been found."

"You wicked wretch," said Dan, scarcely able to restrain his disgust,
although he felt he should not be too hard on one already being severely
punished for his crimes.

"Don't call names," said Curberry, with an attempt at a laugh, "after all,
I am better than you think, since I am trying to save you. I want you to
live and marry Lillian, and use this confession," he laid his hands on the
loose sheets of paper, "from Queen Beelzebub, so that you can put an end
to her wicked doings. Hide the papers when she comes back, or she will
destroy them."

As this was very probable, Dan stretched out his hand for the papers.
Curberry feverishly gathered them together, speaking in a halting manner,
as he did so. "Wait till I put them together," he said, painfully; "this
is a full account of my connection with the society and its evil doings.
It accounts for the death of Moon, of Durwin, of Penn, and of myself.
But take care, Halliday, for Queen Beelzebub will not give in without
a fight."

"She can do nothing," said Dan, watching Curberry pinning the loose papers
together. "Laurance holds what remains of Penn's confession, and will
inform the police shortly. If you would only let me get a doctor."

"No, no, no! I refuse to live and face the reward of my wickedness.
I prefer to pay the cost of my folly in joining the society. My name is
disgraced, but I won't be on earth to suffer for the disgrace.
That brainless young fool who succeeds me will not trouble so long as he
gets the money and the title, which he is certain to. But marry Lillian,
and take care of her. Queen Beelzebub will strike at you through her."

"She dare not while I hold the confession of Penn," said Dan, grimly;
"sooner or later she shall stand in the dock."

"That she never will, believe me. She has a means of escape if the worst
comes to the worst. Oh," Curberry half rose, and then fell back in his
chair, "the end is coming; my eyes are growing dim, and--and--and--ah," he
uttered a shriek, "save yourself!" and with a shaking hand he grasped
the revolver.

As Curberry's eyes were looking past him, Dan, with the subconscious
instinct of self-preservation, had just time to rise and swerve to one
side, when a hand grazed his shoulder. The young man gripped his chair,
and swung it up as a barrier between himself and a stout woman, who was
immediately behind him. She was dressed in a long, black cloak, with a
close-fitting cloth cap, and wore a heavy veil of the motor style, with
pieces of mica let in as eye-holes. Not a word did she say, but seeing
Dan's action, drew back with a deep, indrawn breath like the hiss of a
baffled snake.

"Take care; take care; she has--the serpent poison," gasped Curberry, who
was sitting loosely in his chair, gripping his revolver.

Halliday remembered the wicked wound on Sir Charles Moon's neck and his
flesh grew cold, for the slightest touch of that morsel on shining steel
in Queen Beelzebub's hand meant swift death. "You fiend!" he shouted, and
with a cry of anger, flung the heavy chair fairly at her.

With the leap of a pantheress, she sprang to one side, and the chair
crashed against the opposite wall while the woman glided rapidly round to
the open door leading on to the terrace. A shot rang out as she reached
it, and Dan knew that the dying man had fired on his enemy. Apparently the
bullet did not reach its mark, for Queen Beelzebub still moved on silent,
sinister, and dangerous. Halliday flung himself forward to get between her
and the door, so as to prevent her escape, but with a faint snarl like a
beast at bay she stabbed at him with the death-tipped piece of steel.
He leaped back to save himself from being scratched, while Curberry
dragged himself painfully to the bell-button near the fire-place, and
pressed it with his remaining strength. "I'm done for--call the police.
You--you, oh!" He fell prone on the hearth-rug, and the revolver dropped
beside him.

Halliday ran forward on the impulse of the moment to offer aid, hastily
picking up the weapon meanwhile, and as he did so, Queen Beelzebub sprang
through the door into the open. "she's making for the aeroplane," cried
Dan, and would have followed on the instant, but that Curberry gripped
him fast.

"Stay, stay! A priest, a clergyman. I'm dying," and a deadly fear became
apparent in his glazed eyes, "get a--a--a--Help!"

As he cried, retaining Dan's coat in a grip of iron, the door of the room
opened, and the butler with the footman beside him rushed in. The shot, as
well as the ringing of the bell, had brought them immediately to the spot.
Trying to disengage himself, Dan gave hasty orders. "send for a doctor;
send for a clergyman; send for the police. That woman has murdered
your master."

"Catch her; stop her--oh--oh!" Curberry's grip loosened, and he rolled
over with a moan. Whether he was dead or alive, Dan did not wait to see.
Every moment was precious, if he intended to stay the flight of Queen
Beelzebub. The terrified men came to assist their dying master, and more
servants, attracted by the noise, poured in at the library door.
A backward glance showed Dan that Curberry was being attended to, and then
he sped along the terrace towards the lawn at the side of the house.
Here he arrived, just a moment too late, for already the aeroplane,
propelled by two grooms, was spinning along the turf, with Queen Beelzebub
in the pilot's seat. Like the wicked fairy of nursery tale, she was
escaping in her dragon-car, and even in that hour of success she did not
utter a sound. Silent and menacing she mounted into the air, and Halliday
dashed forward with a cry of rage as she lifted above his reach.

There was not a moment to be lost, and without another glance at the men
who had so innocently assisted, he raced down the avenue, and sprang
through the entrance gates. Queen Beelzebub might make for her lair in
Hillshire, or it might be that she would cross the Channel to seek safety
on the Continent; but, wherever she went, Dan intended to follow.
She would not escape him this time, and he flew like an arrow from the bow
across the open space outside the park, to where his man still stood guard
by his own machine. The little crowd around had their faces turned
heavenward, and were shouting at the sight of the biplane, now dwindling
to a black dot, as it receded swiftly from Blackheath. Dan felt a throb of
satisfaction as he saw that Queen Beelzebub was making for the north.

"Out of the way; out of the way!" gasped the young man, charging through
the throng, and it scattered at his approach; "let her go, let her go!"
and he sprang into the pilot's seat to start the engine.

Immediately the screw began to spin, slowly at first, but gathering in
speed every second. The aeroplane moved, and ran with bird-like swiftness
along the ground, then soared with the hum of a giant bee. Halliday swept
in a vast circle, like an actor taking the stage, then turned the nose of
his machine in the direction of the black dot. This was to be his
pole-star towards which he was to continually direct his course, until the
goal, wherever it might be, was attained. The many men, women and children
standing round the Blackheath shed shouted and cheered, thinking that they
were witnessing the start of an exciting race; but they little knew that
it was a chase dealing with the serious issues of life and death.
Halliday heard the thin sound of their voices reach him faintly, then
settled down to handle his biplane in a masterly manner. Since both
aeroplanes were made by Vincent, it was probable that both were equal in
durability and speed. But Queen Beelzebub had gained a very fair start,
and Dan knew that it would require all his knowledge of aviation to catch
her up. Her escape or capture depended entirely upon the dexterity with
which he manoeuvred the delicate structure which bore him. On her part,
the woman would use all her knowledge to get away safely, but Dan did not
believe that her capability as an aeronaut was equal to his own. In this
contest it was science against despair, and given the machines as equal,
yet the pilots as unequal, it was hard to say what would be the result.
Halliday, racing to save Lillian's life, and to gain her as his wife,
believed that the final victory would remain with him.

It was an unusually pleasant day, with a pale blue sky, lightly sprinkled
with feathery white clouds. A gentle wind was blowing, which was not
sufficiently strong to impede the speed of the aeroplanes. Yet it was
chilly in these high altitudes, and in his haste Dan had not put on his
overcoat. Before the end of the chase he grimly expected to be well-nigh
frozen, but did not mind so uncomfortable a prospect so long as he gained
his aim. Before him fled the woman he was determined to capture and place
in the criminal dock to answer for her manifold sins. Thinking of what she
had done, and how her path was strewn with victims, the young man set his
teeth and tried his best to force the pace. But this was useless, as the
biplane could not do more than it was intended to do. Although he had now
been racing northward for over an hour, the distance between pursuer and
pursued appeared to be much the same, and the receding black dot did not
seem to be growing larger. Dan was irritated, yet felt that even though he
was not gaining, he was not losing, and that was much, taking all things
into account. There was always the chance that Queen Beelzebub's machine
might break down, and then she would be as helpless as a bird with a
broken wing. Also--and Dan did not blind himself to this possibility--his
own aeroplane might come to grief, as it had done during the London to
York race. But benefiting by his former experience he did not try any
fancy-flying, and held to a straight, undeviating course. Both machines
were making a bee-line for the goal, which Halliday now guessed very
plainly was The Grange in Sheepeak, Hillshire.

It had been about two o'clock when the chase started, but already those
taking part in it were miles upon miles distant from London, since the
aeroplanes were flying at the rate of between fifty and sixty miles an
hour. Harrow, St. Albans, Luton, Bedford, and Northampton had long since
dropped behind, and Queen Beelzebub, swerving to the left, was making for
Rugby, so as to get into the straight line for Hillshire, and particularly
for Thawley. Passing over the famous school-town, her pace slackened
somewhat, and Dan managed to secure the advantage of a few miles. But when
her machine lifted Birmingham, she increased her speed, a fact which made
Dan curse. He had been under the impression that she was running short of
oil and petrol, but apparently this was not the case. She had simply
reduced her speed so as to nurse her resources, since she could take this
bold step because of the start she had gained at the outset.
Halliday grudgingly confessed to himself that the woman knew her business,
as she wasted no time. Her machine neither rose nor fell, nor deviated to
right or left over-much, and all she did was to hold to a straight line at
a moderate height above the earth, humouring her engine, and straining as
little as might be the wings, spars, bolts, and such-like gear of the
biplane. Vincent had taught her admirably, and Dan no longer undervalued
her as an antagonist. She was dexterous, bold, resourceful, and
venturesome. His admiration, now freely given, was mixed with pity that so
clever a human being should debase her gifts to harry mankind.
Such qualities as she possessed made her more dangerous, as she was an
intellectual animal, slaying with taught skill rather than with
instinctive cunning.

As the afternoon drew on, and the chase still continued, the night began
to shut down. Gliding over Derby the town was veiled in the grey mists of
swiftly-falling dusk, and when Nottingham came in sight it was
distinguished by a thousand glittering pin-points of light, the usual
nightly illumination. Matlock and Mansfield, Holdbrook and Wayleigh,
gleamed beneath like jewelled crowns, and when the stars began to appear
the aeroplanes were flying between two firmaments, radiant with
multi-coloured orbs of light.

At last Thawley rose into view burning like a furnace under its veil of
smoke and the dim shroudings of twilight, while a vague murmur like the
swarming of bees came muffled to the ears of those who drove the machines.
Yet at these heights the coming dark was not yet very intense, and Queen
Beelzebub's aeroplane beginning to slacken speed, Dan was able to keep it
well in view. He saw it rather vaguely closer at hand, a shadow against
the shadow of the grey sky. Minute by minute he drew nearer and began to
discern the outlines more or less clearly. But it must be admitted that at
the best the clearness was not quite that which deserved the use of such a
word. However, Dan, cold, hungry, and weary with the strain on his nerves,
could think of none better at the moment.

Queen Beelzebub was decidedly losing speed. Her machine seemed to falter
after it left Thawley, as if it was doubtful how to find its way home in
this world of shadows. But at Beswick the woman made a last effort, as it
seemed, like a wounded animal dragging itself faster homeward as it neared
its den, and her aeroplane towered aloft to the vast tableland of the
moors. Halliday was close behind, and when they hovered over Sheepeak the
two biplanes were only a stone throw from one another. He exulted, for now
he had driven the woman to her citadel, and for her there was no escape
even by her machine, as that was--so to speak--worn out. She was at her
last gasp, and would have to fight or yield. She elected to fight when the
airships swung in the foggy air over the fields near The Grange. If she
alighted, Queen Beelzebub knew that her pursuer would alight also and
capture her, so she described a rapid circle with what motive power was
left her, and plunged downward on her enemy to ram his machine.

Dan saw the movement, and with his hand on the steering gear, swerved to
one side, dropping lower as he did so. The other machine swooped
harmlessly overhead, but, recovering quickly, once more came down with the
dip of a hawk on a heron. Halliday dodged again, then thinking that two
could play at the dangerous game, he watched his chance and rushed
straightly at his prey. Queen Beelzebub saw him coming, and adopted his
tactics--that is, she dropped below his onset, and Dan's aeroplane swept
on without result. Once more he came down to her level, and by this time
the machines were only twenty feet from the ground. This time, as he
dashed forward, the woman was not dexterous enough to get out of the way,
and the two clashed violently with a ripping, breaking, smashing sound.
With the engines still spinning, but with broken wings, the biplanes
dropped to the earth, tangled together, Dan's uppermost, clutching at its
prey, so to speak, like a hawk clutching a partridge. Down they came, and
the rising earth met them with a smashing blow.

Halliday was shaken, but did not become unconscious. Clearing his feet and
arms from the tangle of ropes and canvas, he emerged from the confused
heap, and dragged out the woman by her dress, which fluttered out from the
wreckage. To tear off her veil and light a match took a single minute.

"Miss Armour!" cried Dan, greatly amazed. And Miss Armour it was, quite
senseless.



Chapter XIX. TREACHERY

In the chill grey gloom of the fields--damp, depressing, and misty--with
the wreckage of the airship piled up around him, and the insensible woman
lying at his feet, Dan stood bewildered, his nerves jangling like
ill-tuned bells. The twenty feet fall had not harmed him in limb or body;
but the violent contact with the earth, broken in some measure by the fact
that his enemy's aeroplane had been underneath, resulted in a displacement
of his normal powers. He felt battered and bruised, deadly sick and wished
to lie on the wet grass, indifferent to everything and everyone. But with
a dangerous creature at his elbow, this was not to be thought of, even
though that same creature was unable to exercise her wicked will.
Moreover, The Grange was only a stone's throw distant, and doubtless Mrs.
Jarsell had been watching for the coming of her friend. If this were the
case, she would come out with help--for Queen Beelzebub that is.
How Halliday would be treated he was much too muddled in his brain to
consider. Finally, he dropped on his knees, longing for brandy to pull him
together, and began to think with difficulty.

This woman was not Mrs. Jarsell, but Miss Armour. Seeing that he knew her
to be old, feeble, and paralysed, this was most remarkable. Curberry had
called her Queen Beelzebub, so Miss Armour, and not Mrs. Jarsell, was the
head of the Society of Flies, and the cause of all the trouble. In a weak
way, Dan considered that she evidently was not so old as she had made
herself out to be, and certainly she was not paralysed. No woman without
the use of her limbs could have escaped so swiftly, or have worked the
aeroplane so dexterously. Miss Armour, the delicate, kind-hearted old
lady, was the infernal Queen Beelzebub who had spoken behind the mask when
in the darkness the scarlet light had made an accursed halo round her
head. And now she was dead--stone dead.

A moment's reflection assured him that he could not be certain on this
point without examination, so he tore open her dress, and laid his hand on
her heart. It beat feebly, so he knew that she was still alive, although
she was crumpled up in a heap amidst the wreckage. This knowledge restored
Halliday more positively to his senses. She was so dangerous that, even
helpless as she appeared to be, he could not tell what devilry she might
not make use of to get the upper hand. She still had the piece of steel
tipped with the deadly snake poison, and even a feeble woman could inflict
death with that. The idea made Dan search in her pockets to secure the
subtle weapon of defence, but even while he fumbled and hunted, he was
pulled violently backward.

"Mr. Halliday!" gasped Mrs. Jarsell, holding a lantern to his white face;
"hold him," she added to a couple of men who were beside her.

"I've--I've caught Queen Beelzebub red-handed," muttered Dan, striving to
get on his feet, and thinking in a muddled way that Mrs. Jarsell had seen
the arrival of the aeroplanes, the battle in the air, and the catastrophe.
She must have come stealthily across the intervening fields with her
myrmidons, and thus he had been caught unawares. He knew well that once in
her grip, since she was an accomplice of Queen Beelzebub's he could expect
no mercy, and what was worse, Lillian would be in danger. He therefore in
a weak way, fought his best to escape. If he could only reach Mrs.
Pelgrin's hotel he would be safe. But the men were too strong for him, and
he was beaten to his knees. Then, what with the hunger that gnawed him,
the bitter cold, the fall, and the general surprise of the situation, his
senses left him. He uttered a weary sigh, and slipped to the ground, limp
and unconscious.

Then again, as had happened when Penn had drugged him in the taxi-cab, he
felt himself swallowed up in gloom; felt himself falling interminably, and
lost sight of the physical world and its surroundings. To all intents and
purposes he was dead, and from the moment he closed his eyes in that misty
meadow he remembered nothing more.

When his eyes opened again, they shut at once, for the blaze of light was
painful. Dimly he fancied that he heard a telephonic voice give an order,
and he felt that some ardent spirit was being poured down his throat.
The fiery liquor put new life into him; his heart began to beat more
strongly, and he felt that his weak limbs were regaining a fictitious
strength. With a thankful sigh he opened his eyes again, and a bewildered
look round made him understand that he was in the barbaric sitting-room of
The Grange. He saw the violent contrasts of red and yellow and black; he
realised the glare and glitter and oppressive splendour of the many lamps,
and his nostrils were filled with the well-known Sumatra scent.
Reason came back to him with a rush, and he knew in what a dangerous
position he was placed. Here he was in the power of Queen Beelzebub and
her factotum, Mrs. Jarsell--at their mercy completely, as it were,
although he was assured that he would receive none at all. He had hunted
down the gang; he was breaking up the gang; and now in his hour of triumph
he was at the mercy of the gang. Queen Beelzebub was top, tail, and bottom
of the society, and he was in her grip. She would not relax it, he knew
very well, until the life was squeezed out of him.

The realisation of his danger and the memory of what his helplessness
meant to Lillian, nerved him to recover full control of his consciousness.
While there was life there was hope, and as his captors had not murdered
him while he was insensible, Dan concluded that they would not do so when
he had recovered his wits. Queen Beelzebub would play with him, he
fancied, as a cat plays with a mouse, and in that case he might find some
means of escape. So far he had beaten her all along the line, and he might
beat her still, although she certainly held the winning cards at the
moment. As these things flashed across his brain, he yawned and stretched
himself, looking round in a leisurely way as he did so. Still feeling a
trifle stiff and sore, his thinking powers were nevertheless in good
working order, as they at once responded to the command of his indomitable
will. Therefore, with wonderful self-control, he smiled amiably, and
stared into every corner, in order to spy out the weakness of the land.
But he was being watched, as he soon knew, and his thoughts were read.

"No," snarled a silvery voice, higher in tone than that of Mrs. Jarsell,
"I have you and I mean to keep you."

Queen Beelzebub, alive and well, and as completely in possession of her
senses as he was, sat in her big carved chair near the open fireplace just
as she had sat when he paid that long distant visit with Freddy Laurance
and Mildred. Her face was as wrinkled as ever, but instead of being of the
ivory hue which had impressed him on a former occasion, it was deadly
white, and looked particularly venomous. Her white hair had been smoothly
brushed and she wore a loose cloak of scarlet velvet, which fell to her
feet. But in the fall she had suffered, since Dan noticed that her right
arm was bound up in bandages and splints, resting in a black silk scarf
against her breast. His eyes fastened on this, and Miss Armour laughed in
a thin, spiteful manner, which hinted at the wrath that consumed her.

"Yes," she said, in answer to his mute query, "I have broken my arm,
thanks to you, Mr. Halliday. You smashed my aeroplane and sent me to
the ground."

"That is what you tried to do with me," said Dan, drily, and settling
himself comfortably in his chair, since he felt convinced that he was in
no immediate danger. "Tit for tat, Queen Beelzebub, or shall I call you
Miss Armour?"

"The real name or the feigned name, doesn't matter," rejoined the lady,
very coolly, "you can call me what you like for the time you have
to live."

"Oh!" said Halliday, equally coolly, and aware that the cat-and-mouse
torment was beginning, "so that's it, is it?"

Mrs. Jarsell stood beside her friend's chair, and was handing her food in
an anxious manner. The large and ponderous woman looked like a child
overcome with terror. Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks were hollow, and
the immense vitality she possessed appeared to be at a very low ebb.
She was arrayed in white as usual, but her garb was not so colourless as
her face. She even looked smaller than formerly, and was shrunken in her
clothes. There was something pitiful in the spectacle of this large
phlegmatic female broken down, worn out, and overcome with dread of the
future. As she attended to Miss Armour the tears rolled down her face,
which had so suddenly grown old. The sight seemed to irritate the other
woman, who was much more frail, but who had a much more powerful will.
Dan saw in a flash that he had been mistaken in thinking that Mrs. Jarsell
was strong. Her strength lay in her imposing looks; but she was the mere
tool of that fragile, delicate old lady, whose glittering eyes revealed
the iron will, which dominated her weak age-worn body. Here, indeed, was
the true Queen Beelzebub, driven into a corner and prepared to fight to
the last. Halliday felt, with a creeping of the flesh, that he had come to
grips with an evil power, which it would be desperately hard to conquer.
Miss Armour saw the shadow in his eyes.

"You're afraid," she taunted him.

Dan agreed. "Not physically, you understand," he said quietly, "but you
seem to be so thoroughly wicked that the spiritual part of myself quails
for the moment. But it doesn't matter much, you know, seeing that you have
much more cause to fear that I may shoot you at sight," and he fumbled in
his pocket for Curberry's revolver which he had picked up when leaving
the room.

"I removed that when you were insensible," gasped Mrs. Jarsell, wiping her
eyes and turning a heavy white face in his direction.

"Of course," said Miss Armour, in a hard voice. "I ordered the search to
be made in case you had any weapons. Now you are quite defenceless, and at
my mercy, you meddling ape."

"How long have I been insensible?" asked Dan, ignoring the feminine spite
which led her to call him names.

"For quite an hour!" sighed Mrs. Jarsell, whose great body was shaking, as
if with the ague. "I had you brought here along with Miss Armour. You were
both in a kind of faint. Now you are all right, and--"

"And I am all right," finished Miss Armour, imperiously, "which is much
more to the purpose. Better had you died when you fell from the aeroplane,
Mr. Halliday, than have recovered so completely as you seem to have done."

"You mean mischief?"

"Oh, yes, I mean mischief," replied Queen Beelzebub, amiably, "and I mean
torture, such as will make you wince. I'll prove what sort of a man
you are."

"You had better make haste then," said Dan, with a shrug, and bracing up
his courage to beat this fiend with her own weapons, "by this time the
police know all about Curberry."

"What's that to me? The police can't connect me with his death?"

"Not so far as you know, but as my friend Laurance promised to take action
at five o'clock if he did not hear from me, I expect with the Blackheath
and Hampstead inspectors he is now in Lord Curberry's house.
An explanation from Laurance will soon bring the authorities to this den."

Mrs. Jarsell burst into hysterical tears. "I knew there was great danger,"
she wailed. "I knew that the end had come!" and she sank at Miss Armour's
feet in a fit of despair, the picture of a beaten woman.

"Oh, shut up, Eliza!" said Queen Beelzebub savagely, and her eyes
glittered more venomously than ever, "you always play the fool when wits
are needed to keep things straight."

"You can't keep them straight," said Dan, calmly, lounging in his chair,
"your career is at an end, Miss Armour."

"We'll see about that, Mr. Halliday. Oh, you needn't look at me in that
way, my friend! I still have the snake-poisoned lancet, you know, and if
you try to spring on me, even though my arm is broken, you will meet with
a sudden and unpleasant death."

"I don't want to touch you," retorted Halliday. "I shall leave the hangman
to finish you off."

"That he never shall do," snapped Miss Armour, her eyes flashing and her
nostrils dilating, "not one member of that glorious society I have founded
shall ever be done to death by those accursed people in authority. I, and
my subjects who obey me so loyally, will vanish."

"Will you? Not while the ports and railway stations are watched," sneered
Halliday, with contempt, "and I don't think your friend Vincent can supply
aeroplanes in sufficient quantity for you all to get away. Even if you did
by some extraordinary chance, the world would be hunted for you."

"It can be hunted from the North Pole to the South, Mr. Halliday, but
neither the members of the Society of Flies nor its queen will be
discovered. We will be as if we had never been," she concluded
triumphantly, and as she spoke, the big woman, sobbing at her feet,
shivered and shook, and uttered a muffled cry of terror.

Queen Beelzebub kicked her. "Get up, Eliza, you fool!" she said,
contemptuously, "you know quite well that I have made ready for everything
this long time."

"But I don't want to--"

"If you say another word," interrupted Miss Armour, viciously, "you shall
afford sport for the society, as this meddling beast shall do."

Dan laughed gaily, determined not to show the white feather, although his
heart was filled with fear. He did not mind a clean, short, sharp death,
but he did not wish to be tortured and mutilated, as he believed this
incarnate demon intended he should be. Curiously enough, his laugh instead
of exciting Queen Beelzebub to further wrath seemed to extort her
unwilling admiration.

"You are a brave man, Mr. Halliday," she muttered, reluctantly; then burst
out furiously, "Oh, you young fool, why did you not accept the offer I
made you?"

"The offer you prophesied in this very room would be made," said Halliday,
complacently; "well, you see, Miss Armour, or Queen Beelzebub, or whatever
you like to call yourself, I happen to have a conscience."

"That is your weakness," said the woman, calmly, "throw it on the rubbish
heap, my friend. It is useless."

"Now it is, so far as joining your infernal organisation is concerned, I
am quite sure. To-morrow the police will be here, and the Society of Flies
will cease to exist."

"That is possible, and yet may not be probable, Mr. Halliday. If the
society does cease to exist, it will not do so in the way you contemplate.
Eliza!" added Miss Armour, impatiently, "if you will sniff and howl, go
and do so in some other room. I can't stand you just now. My nerves are
shaken, and my arm is hurting me. Go away."

"And leave you with--" Mrs. Jarsell cast a terrified look at Dan.

"Pooh!" cried Queen Beelzebub, contemptuously, "you don't think that I am
afraid of him. I have the lancet with the snake poison, and if he tries to
get out of the door or the window you know very well that every exit is
watched. Go away and employ your time better than sobbing and moaning.
You know what you have to do, you poor silly fool?"

"Yes," sighed Mrs. Jarsell, and stumbled towards the door like a rebuked
infant. "I'll send the telegrams before eight. But the village post-office
will learn too much if I send them."

"Never mind. The whole world will learn too much before to-morrow night,
my dear Eliza. However, neither you nor I, nor any one else concerned,
will be here to get into trouble."

Mrs. Jarsell threw her hands above her head. "The end has come; the end
has come," she wailed tearfully, "we are lost, lost, lost!"

"I know that as well as you do," said Miss Armour, cheerfully, "thanks to
this idiot here. However, he shall pay for his meddling."

"But if the police--"

"If you don't get out," interrupted Queen Beelzebub, in a cold fury,
"I shall prick you with the lancet--you know what that means."

"It would be better than the other thing," moaned Mrs. Jarsell, clinging
to the door, which she had opened.

"What other thing?" inquired Halliday, on the alert for information.

Queen Beelzebub replied. "You shall know before you die! Eliza, will you
go and send those telegrams, you silly fool? If you don't obey me--" the
woman's face took on such a wicked expression that Mrs. Jarsell, with a
piteous cry, fled, hastily closing the door after her. Then Miss Armour
drank a little of the wine that was on the table beside her and looked
smilingly at her prisoner. "I never could make anything of Eliza," she
explained, "always a whimpering cry-baby. I wouldn't have had her in the
society but that I wished to use this house, which belongs to her, and of
course when we started her money was useful."

Halliday being alone, glanced around to see if he could escape. He could
not attack Miss Armour, old and feeble as she was, because of the poisoned
piece of steel which she had concealed about her. He had seen the effects
on Sir Charles Moon, and did not wish to risk so sudden a death. For the
sake of Lillian it was necessary that he should live, since, if he did
not, there was no one left to protect her; therefore he did not think of
meddling with Queen Beelzebub, but cast an anxious look at windows and
door. Escape that way was equally impossible, as all were guarded.
There seemed to be nothing for it but to wait and take what chance offered
itself later. He could see none at the moment. The position was
unpleasant, especially when he remembered that he was to be tortured, but
his manhood prevented his showing the least sign of fear. To intimate that
he cared nothing for her threats he took out his pipe and tobacco pouch.

"Do you mind my smoking, Miss Armour?"

"Not at all, unless you would rather eat. There's food on the table behind
you. Oh," she laughed, when she saw the expression on his face, as he
glanced round, "don't be alarmed, I don't intend to poison you! That death
will be too easy. You can eat and drink and smoke with perfect safety.
I intend to end your life in a less merciful manner."

"Well," said Dan, going to the table, and taking a sandwich together with
a glass of port wine, "I think you are spiteful enough to give me a bad
time before dying, so I am quite sure that I can eat and drink
with safety!"

"Oh, what a pity; what a pity," said Miss Armour, thoughtfully, when the
young man returned to his seat and began to make a hurried meal.

"What's a pity?" asked Dan, carelessly.

"That you and I should be enemies. I gave you the chance to be friendly
with me, you know, but you wouldn't take it. Yet I admire you, and have
always admired you. You have courage, brains, coolness, and persistence.
These are valuable qualities such as I needed for a member of my society.
If I had not seen that you possessed them and wished to make use of them
by binding you to my society, I should have ended your life long ago."

"As Sir Charles Moon's life was ended; as Durwin's life was cut short;
as Penn was disposed of, and as Lord Curberry was dispatched."

"Well, no. Curberry poisoned himself because he feared that everything was
about to come out."

"As it will."

"Probably," said Queen Beelzebub, indifferently, "but there are yet some
hours before the end. No, my friend, you will not die like those you have
mentioned. Your cleverness demands a more ingenious death."

"You are a very clever woman," said Dan, finishing his glass of port.

"I am. You will admire my cleverness when you--" she checked herself and
laughed. "I knew a Chinese mandarin once and he told me many things,
Mr. Halliday. You can guess what he told me."

"Something about torture?" said Dan, lighting his pipe, "quite so. You go
to the Chinese to learn how to hurt a man. I thought you were
more original."

Miss Armour sneered. "Isn't this indifference rather overdone,
Mr. Halliday?"

"Well, it is a trifle. I'm in a blue funk, and can you blame me," he
shuddered; "a man doesn't like to die by inches, you know. However, as we
understand one another, suppose we while away the time by your telling me
how you came to start this damned gang of yours."

"My dear young friend, I admire your courage so much, that I can refuse
you nothing," mocked Miss Armour, wincing as she moved her broken arm.
"I really should be in bed with my hurt."

"You'll get feverish if you don't lay up," Dan advised her.

"Oh, I don't think so. I know about other drugs than the Sumatra scent,
Mr. Halliday. Of course, a broken arm," she added with a sigh, "can't be
mended by all the drugs in the world. Time alone can put it right, and,
thanks to you, I shan't have time to get cured. If you had only fought
with me intead of against me, this would not have happened. Well, my
society--"

"Yes. What about your society?" questioned Dan, politely and easily.

Queen Beelzebub cast an admiring look in his direction and began to speak
in a quiet lady-like manner, as though she were presiding at a tea-table,
and the subject of conversation was quite an ordinary one. "I was left an
orphan at an early age," she said leisurely, "poor and honest and
friendless. For years I led what you fools call a decent life, earning my
bread by going out as a governess. But poverty and honesty did not please
me, especially since the first was the outcome of the last. I never wished
to marry, as I did not care for men. I did not wish for society, or fame,
or flirtation, or indeed anything a woman usually longs for. I desired
power!" and as she uttered the last word an infernal expression of pride
came over her white and delicate face.

"Power for a bad purpose?"

"Well, you see, Mr. Halliday, I could not get power for a good one.
The sole way in which I could obtain my ends was to appeal to people's
self-love. I read of those Italian societies, and the way in which they
terrorised the world. Whatever the members of those societies want they
get, because they work by blackmail, by threats, by the knife, and with
poison. I always wished to found a society of that sort, but I noticed how
frequently things went wrong because the members of various societies got
mixed up with women, or drank too much, or gave themselves away in a
moment of profligacy."

"Ah," Dan smoked calmly, "now I understand why your rules were
so stringent."

"You speak of them in the past tense," said Miss Armour, curiously.

"Well," Dan pressed down the tobacco in his pipe, "the society is done
for; it's gastados, used up, bust, and all the rest of it. Well?"

"Well," echoed the woman, passing over his remark with a sneer. "I wished
to collect a body of men and women who were to live like saints and use
all the power such self-denial gave them to gain all they wanted
for themselves."

"A devilishly clever scheme."

"But not original, like my tortures," Queen Beelzebub assured him.
"In Australia--Sydney, New South Wales--I fancy there are societies who
have the same rules. They call such an organisation there a 'Push!'
I think."

Dan nodded. "I have heard of such things."

"Well, then--to make a long story short, as I want to go to bed, and can't
enjoy your delightful society much longer--I intended to work on those
lines. Years and years ago Mrs. Jarsell was a favourite pupil of mine.
We parted and she married a man with money. He died," Miss Armour laughed,
"in fact, since he treated Eliza badly, I got rid of him."

"Oh, so that is the hold you have on her."

"Quite so. I met her again and got rid of the husband. He left her his
money and I came to live with Eliza as a companion. For a time we went
into London society, and I soon managed to get a few people together by
appealing to their egotism. Some kicked at my ideas--others did not, and
in the end I collected quite a large number. Then I made Eliza take this
house as it struck me that aeroplanes might be utilised for criminal
purposes. I don't say that when this idea came to me aeroplanes were so
good as they are now, but I believed that aviation would improve, and that
the air would be conquered. Chance brought Vincent into my life. He became
a member of the Society of Flies, and manufactured the machines. He also
learned me how to handle them--"

"I am bound to say that he had an excellent pupil," put in Dan, politely.

"Thank you," Miss Armour smiled and nodded. "I fancy I am pretty good.
But you see that by using an aeroplane I was able to get up and down to
London without people knowing. I was, so to speak, in two places at once,
by travelling fast, and so could prove an alibi easily."

"Then Durwin?"

"No. Eliza murdered him. She went up in an aeroplane along with Vincent,
since she is too silly to handle one herself. To kill Moon--that was my
work because he learned too much and refused to join me--I went to town by
train in the character of the false Mrs. Brown. Penn was killed by
Curberry, who had to obey me, or suffer himself. Oh, I assure you I am
quite autocratic, Mr. Halliday," finished the woman merrily.

"I quite believe that," said Halliday, drily, "but did all this villainy
give you pleasure?"

"Oh, yes," Miss Armour's nostrils again dilated, and her eyes again
flashed triumphantly, "think of the power I held until you interfered.
I pretended for greater safety to be paralysed, and no one ever connected
a poor invalid lady with Queen Beelzebub."

"I did not, I assure you. I believed Queen Beelzebub to be Mrs. Jarsell."

"Eliza," Miss Armour scoffed, "why, she's a poor weak fool, and only did
what I ordered her to do because I implicated her along with myself in the
murder of her husband. However, she has been useful, as without her money
I could not have started the business. Power!" she repeated, "yes, I have
a great power. High or low, rich or poor, there was no one I could not
remove if I chose. My subjects worked for me willingly, or unwillingly."

"You are a kind of 'Old Woman of the Mountains', like the gentleman of
that name who invented the Assassins--that gang about the time of
the Crusades."

"Quite so, although it is not polite of you to call me an old woman.
By the way, I got Curberry his title by getting rid of his uncle
and cousin."

"Yes. So he told me," said Dan, marvelling that the woman could speak so
calmly about her wickedness.

"Oh, you are shocked," she laughed gaily, "what a fool you are! I could
tell you much concerning many murders and disappearances which the police
knew nothing about. For some years I have ruled like a despot,
and--and--well," she yawned, "it's all over. Oh, what a pity!"

"I think not. People will sleep quieter when they know Queen Beelzebub and
her demons are harmless."

"Harmless," she echoed the word with a laugh, and touched a silver bell
that stood at her elbow, "we shall all be harmless enough to-morrow, if
indeed you speak truly, and your friend Laurance is coming up here with
the police."

"He is, I assure you," said Dan, wondering why she rang the bell; "but who
are the members of your gang?"

"You'll see them to-morrow, when you afford sport for them," said Queen
Beelzebub in a weary way, and looked fagged out; "meanwhile, I must have
you safely locked up," and as she spoke, two big men entered the room.

"Hang you, I shan't!" began Dan, and sprang to his feet. But the two men
had their hands on him; and shortly he was trussed up like a
Christmas turkey.

"You are less clever than I thought," said Queen Beelzebub, sneering, "or
you would not fight against impossibilities. Good night! Take him away."

And as they were commanded, the two big men took him away in silence.



Chapter XX. QUEEN BEELZEBUB'S END

Unable to resist superior force Dan ceased to struggle, thinking it was
best to play a waiting game, until chance afforded him the opportunity of
escape. Hitherto his good fortune had saved him from grave perils, and he
trusted that finally it would prove strong enough to extricate him from
this last difficulty. He was taken down a short flight of damp steps and
thrust into what he took to be a disused coal-cellar. Here the two big men
released him from his bonds and retired, locking the door behind them.
Once or twice he asked questions, but receiving no reply he asked no more.
They left a lantern for his use, and the light, although only that of a
candle, was very acceptable in the cimmerian darkness of this underground
dungeon. When left alone the prisoner stretched himself, swung his arms
and stamped with his feet to get warm, after which he made an examination
of his surroundings.

Halliday found that the cellar was small with stone floor, stone roof, and
stone walls, all more or less humid. Light and air came through a shaft on
the right of the entrance, which was too narrow to permit of escape.
Evidently the place had been used before as a prison, and no doubt for
refractory members of the society, since there was some spare furniture.
In one corner was a low bed, in another a deal table, in a third a
wash-stand, and finally there was one kitchen chair on which Dan took his
seat to think over matters. He had eaten, so did not feel hungry, and
solaced himself with his pipe, a luxury for which he felt very grateful.
It could not be said that his thoughts were pleasant; they could scarcely
be so, under the circumstances, as there was no denying he was in a most
uncomfortable plight.

So Miss Armour, the delicate maiden lady, was Queen Beelzebub, and the
imposing Mrs. Jarsell was only her tool. Dan was surprised when he
reflected on this, and could not help admiring the infernal cunning of the
woman who had arranged matters. Miss Armour was without doubt a born
criminal, who much preferred doing evil to doing good. As Mrs. Jarsell's
companion, she could have led a blameless existence, surrounded by
attention and comfort and luxury, but her craving for power had led her
into dark paths. For all her care, she might have guessed that in a
law-abiding country the truth of her murderous association would come to
the notice of the authorities sooner or later. And when the knowledge had
become public, with all her cunning she was unable to cope with the
situation. Like the fox in the fable, her many wiles had proved useless,
and here she was driven into a corner. What she intended to do Dan could
not think. He did not see in what way she could escape punishment.

Of course the young man was perfectly satisfied that Freddy was moving in
the matter down south. According to instructions he must have gone to Lord
Curberry's house at Blackheath when he failed to receive news of his
friend, and what he discovered there would assure him that it was time to
take public action and inform the police of what was going on.
The servants would be questioned and Curberry's body would be examined,
while the visit of the veiled woman and her flight in the aeroplane would
be explained. Laurance would guess at once that the unknown lady was Queen
Beelzebub attending to her iniquitous business, and an inquiry at the shed
would soon inform him of the pursuit. Halliday believed that on the morrow
Laurance, together with the police, would arrive at Sheepeak, and then the
end would come. Meanwhile he was in great danger unless Freddy appeared in
time to rescue him, for Miss Armour was very spiteful and her last act of
power would undoubtedly be to murder him for the action he had taken in
bringing about her downfall. But this had to be faced, and if death was
certain, he hoped that it would be immediate, since even his brave nature
quailed at the idea of suffering ingenious Chinese tortures. As to
Lillian, Dan was quite sure she would not be harmed, because Queen
Beelzebub had her hands full and would not have time to kill her.
Indeed, if she decided to do so, it would not be easy for her to find
anyone to execute her commands, for every member of the Society of Flies
must by this time have become aware of the danger which threatened their
organisation. Halliday believed that the telegrams alluded to by Miss
Armour and which were to be sent by Mrs. Jarsell were intended to summon
the members to a conference. Yet what use such a meeting would be, the
young man could not think. The net of the law would capture the entire
gang without doubt. And yet Queen Beelzebub was so infernally cunning that
Dan could not be sure she would not find some means of saving herself and
her subjects, even at the eleventh hour.

In thoughts such as these the night passed slowly and the hours seemed
interminable. The candle in the lantern burned itself out, and he found
himself in complete darkness, while the silence was only broken by the
drip of water from the walls, or by his own breathing and restless
movements. Dan felt as though he were in a tomb, and his lively
imagination conjured up all kinds of horrors until, worn out, physically
and mentally, he fell into a profound slumber. When he opened his eyes
again it was dawn, for he saw the cold light streaming down through the
air shaft. A glance at his watch assured him that it was seven o'clock,
and he wondered if food would be brought to him shortly. As he had only
eaten a sandwich and drank a glass of port wine since yesterday morning's
breakfast, he felt most uncommonly hungry, and in spite of the peril in
which he stood he longed ardently for food. In the meantime, for comfort,
he lighted his pipe again, sat on his bed, and watched the thin beam of
sunlight move slowly across the stone floor of his cell. This was an
unexpected adventure sure enough, and unpleasant as it was now, it
promised to be still more unpleasant before it was concluded. All that
Halliday could hope for was that Laurance with the police would arrive in
time to save his life, and deliver him from imprisonment.

At ten o'clock--Dan looked again at his watch when the door opened--Mrs.
Jarsell entered with a tray, on which were two boiled eggs, bread and
butter, and coffee. Placing this on the table she was about to leave, as
she had entered, in silence, when Dan caught her dress. At once with a
shiver she drew back and displayed the lancet tipped with the
serpent-poison.

"If you try to escape, I shall kill you," she said in her heavy voice.

Dan looked at her curiously, and saw that she was less imposing than ever
for all her massive looks.  All her self-restraint was gone, her eyes were
red; her face was disfigured with tears; and her big body looked flabby
and inert. A greater collapse or a more pitiful spectacle can scarcely be
imagined, and Dan felt quite sorry for her, even though he knew she was
banded against him with others to bring him to a cruel death. "I shall not
try to escape," he said, slowly; "that is, I shan't try just now."

Pausing at the door, Mrs. Jarsell, still on guard with the lancet, looked
at him sorrowfully. "You can never escape," she said brokenly, "try as you
may, for the house is guarded by four men, who are sworn to obey
Miss Armour."

"Queen Beelzebub, you mean," said Halliday with a shrug.

"I wish I had never heard the name," cried Mrs. Jarsell with a sob.

"I quite believe that. I am very sorry for you."

"You have every need to be. Thanks to you, we are all caught in a trap,
and there is no means of escape."

"Really. I thought that Miss Armour--"

Mrs. Jarsell shuddered. "she has an idea, but I hope it will not be
necessary for her to carry out her idea. After all, things may not be so
bad as they seem, Mr. Halliday."

"If you mean the police, I am afraid they are," he retorted with another
shrug and with great emphasis; "by this time my friend Laurance has
informed the Scotland Yard authorities of what we know."

"What do you know?" demanded Mrs. Jarsell, with a gasp, and she was forced
to lean against the door for support.

"Everything," said Dan, briefly, "so with your permission I shall have my
breakfast, Mrs. Jarsell," and he began to eat with a good appetite.

"Oh, how can you; how can you?" cried the big woman, convulsively, "think
of the danger you stand in!"

"I shall escape!"

"Escape, and from Queen Beelzebub? Nobody has ever escaped her."

"I shall, and you will be the means of my escaping."

"Me!" Mrs. Jarsell used bad grammar in her astonishment, "how can I--"

"That is your affair," broke in Halliday, pouring out the coffee.

"Why should I help you to escape?"

"Because you are a woman and not a fiend. Miss Armour is one, I admit, but
I can see very plainly that you are a most unwilling accomplice."

"I am, I am," cried Mrs. Jarsell, vehemently, "years ago I was a decent
woman, a good woman. She came into my life again and poisoned my
existence. She worked on my jealousy and on my fear and--"

"I know; I know. She enabled you to get rid of your husband."

"Ah!" Mrs. Jarsell reeled back as though she had been struck, "she told
you that, did she?"

"She told me everything."

"Then you will never escape; she would never let you go free with the
knowledge you have of her secrets. You are doomed. As to my husband," Mrs.
Jarsell appeared to be speaking more to herself than to Dan, "he was a
wicked and cruel wretch. He starved me, he beat me, he was unfaithful to
me, and led me such a life as no woman could endure. Miss Armour showed me
how to rid myself of him, when I was distraught with misery and passion.
I thought it was sympathy with me that made her help me. It was not.
All she desired was to gain some hold over me, and use my money for her
own vile ends."

"You don't appear to love her," said Halliday, coolly.

The woman closed the door, placed her back against it and clenched her
hands in a cold fury. "I hate her; I loathe her; I detest her!" she cried,
in a guttural voice, evidently consumed with rage. "For years and years
and years I have been her slave. After I killed my husband, under her
directions--although I don't deny but what he deserved death--there was no
retreat for me, as she could have, and would have, informed the police.
I should have been hanged. She made use of her power to use my money in
order to create this wicked society. It murders and slays and
blackmails and--"

"I know; I know," said Dan soothingly, "she told me all about it."

"Then you know how evil she is. I have had to commit crimes from which my
better self shrank at her command."

"Such as the murder of Durwin," put in Dan, quickly.

"That is only one out of many. Deeper and deeper I have sunk into the mire
and now the end has come. I am glad of it."

"Why not turn king's evidence, and denounce this woman and her gang?
Then you would be pardoned."

"There is no pardon for my wickedness," said Mrs. Jarsell, in a sombre
tone, "I have sown, and I must reap as I have sown. It is too late. I know
that your friend will come with the police. They will find the whole
wicked lot of criminals here, which constitute the Society of Flies."

"Ah! those telegrams?"

"Yes. I sent off thirty last night, for now Penn and Curberry are dead
there are just thirty members. To-day all will come up since the danger to
everyone is so great. I sent the wires last night, and I am confident that
the members have started for Sheepeak this morning. This afternoon every
one will be under this roof. All the worse for you."

Dan quailed. "Does she really mean to torture me?" he asked nervously, and
it was little to be wondered at that such a prospect did make him
feel sick.

"Yes, she does," rejoined Mrs. Jarsell, gloomily, "when the members find
that there is no escape, they will be delighted to see the man who had
brought this danger upon them mutilated and done to death by inches."

"A pleasant set of people," muttered Dan, bracing himself to meet the
worst, "but I think you would not care to see me tortured."

"No, I wouldn't. You are brave, and young, and clever, and handsome--"

"And," added Dan, quickly, thinking of a means to move her to help him,
"I am to marry Lillian Moon. Surely you have some sympathy with me and
with her?"

"Supposing I have, what can I do?"

"Help me to escape," said Dan, persuasively.

"It's impossible," she growled, and went suddenly away, closing the door
after her with a bang that sounded in Dan's ears like his death-warrant.

All the same, with the courage of a brave nature, and the hopefulness
inseparable from youth, he went on with his meal hoping for the best.
Mrs. Jarsell was moved by his plight; he saw that, and, deeply stained as
she was with compulsory crimes, she might think to atone for them by doing
one good act. At the eleventh hour she might set him free, and undoubtedly
she would think over what he had said. This woman, unlike the others, was
not entirely evil, and the seeds of good in her breast might bring forth
repentance and consequent help. Dan knew that he was clinging to a straw,
but in his present dilemma there was nothing else to cling to.

After breakfast he lay down again, and again began to smoke. For hours he
waited to hear his fate, sometimes stretched on his bed, sometimes seated
in the chair and occasionally walking up and down the confined space of
his cell. He could not disguise from himself that things were desperate.
His sole hope of escape lay with Mrs. Jarsell, and that was but a slight
one. Even though her remorse might wish to aid him, her terror of Queen
Beelzebub might be too strong to let her move in the matter. Halliday was
uncommonly brave, and extraordinarily hopeful, yet the perspiration beaded
his forehead, and he shivered at the prospect of torture. Without doubt he
was in hell, and the devils presided over by the infernal queen were
waiting to inflict pains and penalties on him. It terrified him to
think that--

"But this won't do," said Dan to himself, as he heard the key grate in the
lock late in the afternoon. "I must pull myself together and smile.
Whatever these beasts do to me, I must die game. But--but--Lillian."

With a quiet smile he turned to greet Mrs. Jarsell, who did not look him
in the face, nor did she even speak. With a gesture, he was invited to
come out and for the moment had a wild idea of escape as soon as he
reached the upper portion of that wicked house. But the sight of the
lancet in her hand prevented him from making a dash for liberty. He knew
that the merest scratch would make him a corpse, so it was not worth while
to risk the attempt. Only when he was at the door of the barbaric
sitting-room he whispered to Mrs. Jarsell, "You will help me to escape. I
know you will. Even now you are thinking of ways and means."

"Perhaps," she gasped, in a low whisper, then hastily flung open the door
and pushed him into the room.

With that word of hope ringing in his ears, Halliday faced his judges with
a smile on his lips. The room was filled with people who greeted his
entrance with a roar of anger. He was spat upon, struck at, kicked and
shaken by those despairing creatures whom he had brought to book.
Queen Beelzebub, seated in her big chair, at the end of the apartment,
smiled viciously when she saw his reception, but did not interfere for
some moments. Then she waved her hand.

"Let him be; let him be," she said, in her malicious silvery voice,
"you shall have all the revenge you desire. But let everything be done
in order."

Left alone by the furies, Halliday stood with his back to the door, and
with Mrs. Jarsell on guard beside him. He glanced round at the pallid
faces and thought that he had never seen such an assemblage of terror.
There were old men, and young men, mixed with women of the higher and
lower classes.  Some were well-dressed, while others were badly clothed;
some were handsome and others were ugly. But one and all bore the mark of
despair written on their white faces and in their agonised eyes. It was
like a gathering of the damned and only the individual who had damned
them, one and all, seemed to be unmoved. Queen Beelzebub appeared calm and
unshaken, looking at her prisoner quietly and speaking in a tranquil
manner. Dan found himself wondering if this creature was indeed a human
being or a fiend.

"We are all here," said Miss Armour, in a dignified manner, and waving her
hand again, this time to indicate the assembly; "this is the Society of
Flies which you see face to face for the first and the last time. You have
brought us together for an unpleasant purpose--"

"To torture and murder me, I suppose," said Halliday, with studied
insolence, and bracing his courage with the memory of Mrs. Jarsell's
whispered word.

"No. That part of our business is pleasant," Queen Beelzebub assured him.
"I look forward to enjoyment when I see you writhing in torment. But the
unpleasant purpose is the disbanding of our society."

A wail of terror arose from those present. Some dropped on their knees and
beat the ground with their foreheads; others stood stiff and
terror-struck, while a few dropped limply on the floor, grovelling in
despair. Since all these people were criminals, who had inflicted death
and sorrow on others, it was strange how they hated a dose of their own
medicine. Even in the midst of his fears Dan found himself wondering at
the illogicality of the degenerate mob, who expected to do evil and yet
enjoy peace. Then he remembered that cruelty always means cowardice, and
no longer marvelled at the expression of dread and fear on every
ghastly face.

"How I propose to disband our society," went on Queen Beelzebub, quite
unmoved by that agonised wail, "there is no need for you to know. It may
be that we shall break up, and each one will go here, there, and the other
place. It is certain that we cannot keep together since I have received
news that the police are after us."

"Headed by Laurance."

"Exactly. Headed by your friend Laurance. I should like to punish him, but
there is no time, so you will have to bear his punishment as well as your
own, Mr. Halliday. What have you to say why we should not torture you and
kill you, and force you to die by inches?"

Fists were shaken, feet were stamped, and a dozen voices asked the same
question. Dan looked round at his foes calmly, and shrugged his shoulders
in contempt. There was a burst of jeering laughter. "You won't look like
that," said Queen Beelzebub, significantly, "when--" she broke off with a
dreadful laugh and glanced at the fire-place.

There Dan saw irons of curious shape, pincers and files and tongs, and
what was worst of all, in the centre of the flames reddened a circle of
steel. He could not help turning pale as he guessed that this would be
placed on his head, and again he comforted himself with the memory that
Mrs. Jarsell, even at the eleventh hour, might help him. When he changed
colour there was a second burst of laughter, and Halliday glared
fiercely round.

"Are you human beings or fiends?" he asked, "to think of torturing me.
Kill me if you will, but shame as men and women should prevent you from
mutilating a man, who has done you no harm."

"No harm," it was Queen Beelzebub who spoke while her subjects snarled
like ill-fed beasts, "you dare to say that, when you have brought us to
this pass?"

"I acted in the cause of law and order," said Dan boldly.

"We despise law and order."

"Yet you are now being brought to book by what you despise," retorted the
prisoner, and again there came that unhuman snarl.

"The more you speak in that way the worse it will be for you," said Miss
Armour, coldly, "yet you can escape some tortures if you will tell us all
how you came to learn the truth about us?"

"I don't care a damn about your tortures," said Dan, valiantly, "and I
will explain what you ask just to show that clever as your organisation
is, it cannot escape discovery. Nor has it. You are all snared here like
rats in a trap, and should you venture out of this house you will be
caught by the authorities to be hanged as you deserve."

A howl of rage went up, and Queen Beelzebub waved her hand once more.
"All in good time," she said quietly, "let us hear what he has
to explain."

"It was the Sumatra scent on the body of Sir Charles Moon which put me on
the track," declared Dan, folding his arms. "I traced it to Penn, who told
me a lie about it. I believed him at the moment and disbelieved him when I
smelt the same perfume in this very room."

"Here?" questioned Miss Armour, and for the first time her face wore an
expression of dismay, as if she had been caught napping.

"Yes. If you remember, I spoke about your cards being scented. You told me
a lie about it. But that clue connected you with Moon's murder. I watched
you and I watched Mrs. Jarsell. I saw her face in a cinematograph which
was taken on the day of the London to York race when Durwin was murdered."

"Oh!" Mrs. Jarsell gasped and moaned, and Dan could hear some of the men
in impotent fury grind their teeth. Queen Beelzebub was as calm as ever.

"Penn told me much when I was taking him for that flight in which I said I
would throw him overboard unless he confessed. Then I was taken to the
headquarters of your society in London, and again smelt the perfume.
I believed that Queen Beelzebub was Mrs. Jarsell, and was astonished when
I found Miss Armour playing that part. Penn's confession was not all
destroyed, and my friend Laurance has by this time shown what remains of
it to the police."

"And the telegram which Curberry received?" demanded Queen Beelzebub.

"Laurance sent that in vague terms so as to frighten Curberry. It did, and
he committed suicide after declaring to me that he murdered Penn by your
damned order, Miss Armour. Then--"

"Thank you, we know the rest," she said in a quiet tone, which was
infinitely sinister in its suggestion, "you followed me in the aeroplane,
and smashed us both up."

"He broke my machines, the two of them," said a hoarse voice of wrath, and
Dan looked sideways to see Vincent glaring at him furiously.

"Well, you have fallen into your own trap," said Queen Beelzebub,
savagely. "I caught you, and I hold you, and after we have had a
conference as to how you will be tortured, you will expiate your crimes."

"Crimes," echoed Dan, "that's a nice way to put the matter. I have done a
service to the State by ridding the world of all you devils. You can't
escape hanging, not one of you," and he looked defiantly round the room.

"We shall all escape," said Queen Beelzebub quietly, "those who think that
they will not, have no trust in me." She rose and stretched out her arms.
"I have never failed you; never, never. I shall not fail you now. I swear
that not a single one of you will suffer on the gallows."

Apparently her sway over the society was great and they believed that she
could accomplish even impossibilities, for the faces of all cleared as if
by magic. The look of dread, the expression of terror disappeared, and
there only remained an uneasy feeling, as though none felt themselves
quite safe until Queen Beelzebub performed her promise. For his part, Dan
believed that the woman was lying, as he could not see how any could win
free of the net which was even now being cast over the house.

"You are a set of fools, as well as a pack of wolves," cried the young
man, in a vehement manner, "the police know too much for you to escape
them. My friend Laurance will lead them here; he knows this house; you are
safely trapped, say what that woman will. Thieves, rogues,
liars, murderers--"

"Lawyers, doctors, actors, soldiers," scoffed Queen Beelzebub, "they all
belong to the Society of Flies, and you can see them here, Mr. Halliday.
Some of those ladies are in society; some are in shops; some are married,
and others are not. But both men and women have acted for the good of the
society, which I have founded to give each and every one what he or
she desires."

"You are all devils," raged Dan, his wrath getting the better of his
discretion, "red-handed criminals. The only decent one amongst you is
Mrs. Jarsell."

"I am decent?" gasped Mrs. Jarsell, looking up surprised.

"Yes. Because you were driven by that fiend," he pointed to the smiling
Miss Armour, "to compulsory crimes. You feel remorse--"

"Does she," cried Queen Beelzebub, gaily, "and what good does that do, my
very dear Eliza, when you know what you have to do?"

Mrs. Jarsell looked at her companion with a long and deadly look of hate,
such as Dan had never thought a face was capable of expressing. "I loathe
and detest you," she said, slowly, "but for you, I would have been a good
woman. I have been driven to sin by you."

"And I shall still drive you," shouted Queen Beelzebub, furiously; "take
that man away until we decide what tortures we will inflict on him.
Then when he is dead and punished for his meddling, you will either do
what I have commanded you to do, or you shall be tortured also!"

The assembly, now quite certain that in some way their necks would be
delivered from the rope of the law, shouted joyfully, glad to think that
two people would be done to death instead of one. Mrs. Jarsell smiled in a
faint, bitter manner.

"You shall be obeyed," she said, slowly; "come, Mr. Halliday!"

"And say your prayers," cried Queen Beelzebub as the door opened to let
the pair out, "you'll need them," and as the door closed with Dan and Mrs.
Jarsell on the outside, the young man heard again that cruel laughter.

"They are all in there," whispered the woman catching Dan's wrist and
speaking hurriedly, "the men who captured you included. The house is quite
empty outside that room. Come!"

"Where will you take me?" inquired Dan, hanging back and wincing, for now
his fate hung in the balance, indeed.

"Outside. I am setting you free. Run away and probably you will meet
your friend and the police.  And pray for me; pray for me," she
ended vehemently.

"Why not come also?" said Dan, when he found himself at the entrance door
of The Grange, "you are a good woman, and--"

"I am not good. I am wicked, and may God forgive me. But I am doing one
decent thing, and that is to set you free to marry Lillian Moon. When you
leave this house, I shall do another decent deed."

"And that is?" Dan stepped outside, yet lingered to hear her answer.

"You shall see. Tell the police not to come too near the house," and in a
hurry she pushed him away and bolted the door.

Halliday ran for all he was worth from that wicked dwelling. On the high
road he saw a body of men approaching, and was certain that here were the
police and Laurance coming to save him. Shouting with glee at his escape
he hastened towards them, when he heard a sullen heavy boom like distant
thunder. He looked back at The Grange and saw a vast column of smoke
towering into the sunlight. Then came a rain of debris. At last the
Society of Flies were disbanded, for the house and its wicked inhabitants
were shattered into infinitesimal fragments.



Chapter XXI. SUNSHINE

After the storm came the calm, and with the spring a realisation of Mr.
Halliday's hopes concerning his future. Sir John Moon no longer objected
to Dan as the husband of his niece, and was indeed profoundly thankful
that she had escaped becoming Lady Curberry. The story of the Society of
Flies, and the wickedness of Queen Beelzebub and the blowing up of The
Grange was a nine day's wonder. The papers, for some weeks, were filled
with little else, and "The Moment" almost doubled its circulation when the
able pen of Mr. Frederick Laurance set forth the complete story.
Halliday became quite a hero, as indeed he was, although he did not
appreciate the rewards of his conduct. To be interviewed, to have his
portrait, more or less unlike him, in dozens of illustrated papers, to
receive offers from music-hall managers, and even proposals of marriage
from various enthusiastic ladies, did not appeal to Dan. As soon as he
could, he went out of London and took refuge in Sir John's country seat so
as to escape publicity.

Needless to say, Lillian was there, and Mrs. Bolstreath also. Laurance was
due within seven days to be Dan's best man at the June wedding, and with
him Mildred was coming at Lillian's special request. Once, twice, and
again the owner of the house had heard the story of the late events, and
also had read them more or less garbled in different newspapers. Yet he
never wearied of the recital, and admired Halliday greatly for the part he
had played. From objecting to Dan as a nephew-in-law the baronet now
urgently desired that he should make Lillian Mrs. Halliday. In fact, when
he thought of what the young man had saved Lillian from, the uncle of the
girl could not do enough for his estimable young friend. So Dan, having
become famous was about to become rich, but neither fame nor wealth
appealed to him so much as the undoubted fact that he was on the eve of
wedding the girl he adored.

"And I think," said Lillian, holding on to Dan as if she feared to lose
him, "that you and I would be as happy in a cottage as in a palace.
Money is a nuisance, I think, dear."

"You say that because you have never experienced the want of it," said
Dan, in a sententious manner. All the same he slipped his arm round the
girl's slim waist, and kissed her for the pretty sentiment she had
expressed relative to a poor but Arcadian existence.

The happy pair, not yet joined in holy matrimony, but to be made one in
seven days, were seated in the delightful garden of Sir John's house,
which was situated in the pleasant county of Devon. They had strolled out
after dinner, leaving Mrs. Bolstreath to chat with the baronet, who
approved of the big placid woman, and enjoyed her society. Lillian and
Dan, however, liked to be in one another's company without any third
person to spoil their pleasure, and on this occasion--being humoured as
lovers--they were entirely alone. The garden sloped down to a yellow
beach, which was the curve of a tiny bay, and under the orb of a brilliant
May moon, the waters of the vast sea murmured softly almost at their feet.
There was a marble bench here, with a marble statue of Cupid near at hand,
perched on a pedestal, so the spot was quite that which lovers would have
chosen. Dan chose it, because the screen of shrubs and trees quite shut
off the nook they occupied from the many windows of the great house, and
he could kiss Lillian when he wished to without any uneasy feeling that
someone was looking on. It is quite unnecessary to say that he frequently
availed himself of his privilege. The about-to-be bride fully approved of
his ardour in this respect. 

"But you really must be serious," said Miss Moon sedately, after the last
embrace given out of compliment to her love-in-a-cottage sentiment.
"I want to ask you a few questions."

"Ask what you will, I can deny you nothing."

"It's about the Society of Flies," hesitated the girl.

"My dear," said Dan patiently, and coaxing a loose leaf round his cigar,
"I don't want to be disagreeable, but I am really tired of the Society of
Flies."

"Only a few questions," said Lillian, nestling to his side, "and then we
can forget all about the matter."

"That won't be easy for me to do," replied Mr. Halliday, rather grimly,
"I can never forget what I suffered when I was expecting to be tortured by
that fiend."

"Queen Beelzebub?"

"She could not have chosen a better name, my dear. I sometimes doubt if
she was a human being at all."

"Poor, misguided woman," murmured Lillian, resting her head on Dan's
shoulder.

"Don't pity her, dear. She does not deserve your pity. Now, Mrs.
Jarsell--I have always been sorry for her."

"So have I," said the girl, promptly, "she was very good to you, dear."

"Good is a weak way of expressing what I owe her," retorted Halliday,
"think of what she saved me from."

"Perhaps Queen Beelzebub would not have tortured you, after all."

Dan laughed incredulously. "I shouldn't have cared to have trusted to her
mercy. I tell you, Lillian, as I have told you before, that already the
implements of torture were being made ready. They would have crowned me
with a red-hot circlet of steel, and pinched my flesh with red-hot
pincers, and--"

"Don't, oh, don't," Lillian turned pale, "it is really too dreadful!
And to think that I was with Bolly at Mrs. Pelgrin's quite ignorant of the
peril you were in. I wish I had been with you."

"I am glad you were not. My one feeling of thankfulness was that you had
escaped being hurt in any way. I didn't mind dying so long as you were all
right, my darling, although I much prefer being alive and here.
Lillian, my dear, don't cry; it's all over weeks ago."

"I--I--I can't--can't help it," sobbed the girl, clinging to him, "it is
all so dreadful. When Mr. Laurance came that day with the police and said
you were at The Grange, I thought I should have died."

"There, there," Dan soothed her, as he would have soothed a fretful child,
"it is all over and done with. By the way, how was Freddy so certain that
I was at The Grange? He never quite explained his certainty."

"Well, dear," said Miss Moon, drying her eyes with Dan's handkerchief,
"when he did not hear from you in London he went down to Blackheath with
Inspector Tenson of Hampstead. They saw the local inspector and called at
Lord Curberry's house, after what Mr. Laurance told. But already a
policeman had been summoned by the servants. Lord Curberry was dead of
poison, and they found his confession saying how he had taken it because
he believed that his connection with the Society of Flies was found out.
Then the servants explained how Queen Beelzebub had come in
an aeroplane--"

"They did not call her Queen Beelzebub--the servants, I mean," said Dan,
who had heard the explanation before but was glad to hear it again told in
Lillian's soft voice.

"No. They did not know who she was, as she was cloaked and veiled.
But they told Mr. Laurance that you had declared this veiled lady had
murdered Lord Curberry--that wasn't true, you know."

"True enough in one sense," interrupted Dan quickly, "seeing that she
drove him to suicide. Well?"

"Well, then, Mr. Laurance guessed that she was Queen Beelzebub and
wondered where you were. He went to the shed where you kept your aeroplane
and heard that you had followed her. Those at the shed thought that it was
a race."

"It was," said Dan grimly, again, "and I won."

"Mr. Laurance guessed that you had followed her all the way to Sheepeak,
although he fancied, and indeed hoped, that both aeroplanes had broken
down. He dreaded lest you should get into trouble at Sheepeak."

"Which I certainly did, although not quite in the way Freddy expected."

Lillian laughed at the memory of his escape, and rubbed her soft face on
the sleeve of his coat. "Mr. Laurance told the police all about the
matter, and they wished to telegraph to Thawley, so that the police there
might go over to Sheepeak. But Mr. Laurance stopped them, as he fancied
you might have been taken captive by Queen Beelzebub, and that if such a
move was made, she might hurt you."

"She intended to hurt me very severely. And then Freddy heard from the
police about those numerous telegrams all in the same words, calling
thirty people to Sheepeak. It was the similarity of the messages that made
the telegraph authorities suspicious and when the police came to
ask--knowing where Queen Beelzebub lived from Freddy--they were shown
the telegrams."

"But by that time all those who got the telegrams had come north," said
Lillian, quite excited, "they all went up by the early train."

"Yes, and the police, with Freddy, followed, delaying action until such
time as they thought they could collar the whole gang. By Jove, they just
came in time. Freddy was a fool to tell you that I was in The Grange."

"He was not quite certain, and only thought so because the wrecked
aeroplanes were found in the field near the house. Oh, Dan," Lillian put
her arms round her lover's neck, "Mr. Laurance told me how thankful he was
when he saw you running along the road and knew that you had escaped."

"He might have been thankful also that I caused him and the body of police
to halt," said Dan, quickly, "if they had not, every one would have been
blown up. As it was, I very nearly got smashed by the falling sticks and
stones and what not. There must have been tons of dynamite in the cellars
of The Grange."

"Who do you think put it there, Dan?"

"Queen Beelzebub, of course. She said that she had made everything ready
against possible discovery, and warned poor Mrs. Jarsell that she would
have to commit a last crime. Crime, by Jove! Why the best day's work the
woman ever did was to blow up that gang of devils."

"I suppose Mrs. Jarsell did blow up the house, Dan?"

"Of course she did. Her heart softened for some reason, and she pushed me
out of danger. Then she must have gone straight down to the cellar, and
set a light to the stored dynamite. The explosion happened so quickly
after I was free that I am sure she acted in that way. It was certainly
efficacious, for not one of the blackguards, either men or women, remained
alive to be hanged."

"Well, that was a good thing," said Miss Moon, with a little shudder, "you
know that their relatives would have been disgraced?"

Dan nodded. "Quite so, and the names have never become public. This person
and that person and the other person disappeared from various
neighbourhoods and from various family circles. But when the relatives
read about the explosion in Hillshire and Freddy's brilliant account of
that infernal society, they made a pretty good guess as to what had
happened to the disappearing party. Very few people gave information to
the police that their relatives or friends had disappeared. Tenson was
rather annoyed, as he wanted to make a big fuss over the matter."

"I don't see what bigger fuss could have been made, Dan. Why the papers
were filled with nothing else for weeks."

"All the same, Tenson wanted the names of those who belonged to the gang,
and people declined to give names of those who had disappeared from their
midst. We know that Curberry belonged to the gang, and Penn; also Mrs.
Jarsell, Vincent, and Queen Beelzebub. But only one or two other names
came to light in print."

"I think," said Lillian, thoughtfully, "that so many well-connected people
were mixed up in the matter that everything was hushed up as much as
was possible."

"H'm!" said Halliday, throwing away the butt end of his cigar, "it is not
unlikely that a hint was given in high quarters that no more need be said
than was absolutely necessary. Heigh ho!" he rose and stretched, "I am
weary of the business. Come down and walk on the beach, dear, and let us
talk about ourselves."

Lillian was only too glad and the lovers descended the marble steps which
led down gently to the sands. The crescent moon glowed pure silver in a
sky of the darkest blue with the old moon in her radiant arms. In dark
ripples fringed with creaming white, the wavelets murmured on the sands,
and at either side of the bay great cliffs bulked, huge and densely black.
It was a night of soft winds and glorious moonshine, fit for Romeo and
Juliet to converse about love, yet Lillian still harped on the prosaic
facts of the dangers she and Dan had escaped. Perhaps it was natural, for
they had assuredly passed through a most trying time.

"Why did Queen Beelzebub found such a wicked society?"

"She wanted power and perverted her talents to base ends in order to gain
it, my dear. Well, well, she has gone to her account, so we need say no
more about her. She was a clever woman, but a fiend incarnate."

"And Mrs. Jarsell?"

"Poor soul! She was but an example of the influence of a strong mind on a
weak one. I think she loathed the whole business thoroughly, but she had
gone too far to retreat."

"Do you think Mrs. Pelgrin or her nephew knew anything of the matter?"

"No, I don't," said Halliday, very decidedly, "although Tenson had his
suspicions of George. Mrs. Jarsell, who was used as a blind by Miss
Armour, in her turn used George as a blind to say, if necessary, how
seldom she went to town. I forgot to tell you, Lillian, that the police
discovered that both Mrs. Jarsell and the leader of the society used
frequently to motor for miles and miles to different stations further down
the line in order to reach London without remark being made. Mrs. Jarsell
only used the Thawley station so as to get George Pelgrin's evidence that
she scarcely ever went to town. In that way of course it was next door to
impossible to connect two harmless old ladies with these many
dreadful murders."

"It was only your cleverness about that scent which formed the link," said
Lillian, proud of Dan's characteristic sharpness, "and by using the
biplane to travel to Blackheath, when Mr. Durwin was murdered, Mrs.
Jarsell was able to get Mrs. Pelgrin to prove an alibi."

"Oh, it was chance that showed Mrs. Jarsell's complicity on that occasion,
my dear," said Dan, modestly, "but that we went into that animated picture
entertainment, we should never have known she was at Blackheath. I suppose
Miss Armour did not feel equal to committing that particular crime, so
sent Mrs. Jarsell to carry out the job."

"Miss Armour was never really paralysed, I suppose?"

"No. She played the part of an invalid when any one paid a visit. Nor do I
believe that either she or Mrs. Jarsell were so old as they pretended to
be. What a queer thing human nature is," went on Dan, thoughtfully, "here
was Miss Armour who could have lived a very pleasant and comfortable life,
plunging herself and that miserable woman into dangerous crime just for
the love of power. One would have thought that she would have liked to
show her power publicly, but she was quite content to be a secret despot.
I suppose it gave her a certain amount of pleasure, though it is hard for
a simple person such as I am to see where it came in."

"But her power could not have been exercised amidst public applause, Dan,
seeing what it meant."

"Quite so. The police would soon have ended her career had her infernal
sway been known."

"Do you think," asked Lillian, after a pause, "that the members of the
society expected that explosion?"

"No," answered Halliday, very promptly, "I do not, else in spite of the
danger I believe the half, if not the whole, of them would have run out
even into the arms of the police to be hanged in due course. But they
seemed to have an enormous belief in Queen Beelzebub, who was undoubtedly
as clever as her father the devil. The members expected that in some way
she would manage to save them. But all the time--as I guessed, although I
could not understand what she was aiming at--she was preparing some way of
getting rid of the lot, herself included. She must have summoned them to a
pretended conference so as to house all under one roof and then fire the
mine. I expect she filled the cellars of The Grange ages ago with
dynamite, and arranged with Mrs. Jarselll to explode the mine. Of course,
where Mrs. Jarsell got the better of Queen Beelzebub was that she did not
give her the pleasure of revenging herself on me, and fired the dynamite
unexpectedly. While Miss Armour and her demons were thinking how to
torture me they all went--well, we won't say where they went. But there
wasn't enough left of them to form a single human being."

"And there is an immense hole in the ground where The Grange stood," said
Lillian with awe, "Mr. Laurance told me, and Mildred also."

"I daresay that hole will form the basis of a legend in years to come,"
was Dan's reply, "and a very picturesque story can be made out of the
material supplied by that infernal woman. She was as wicked and cruel and
callous as that Ezzelin who played dice with the arch-fiend. By the way,
Lillian, I suppose Mildred Vincent was very much cut up over the death of
her uncle?"

"No, she was not. Of course she regretted his awful end, and that he
should have been so wicked, but he was never kind to her and she had not
much love for him. I don't know," ended Miss Moon, reflectively, "if we
can be sure that he ever committed a crime."

"Yes, he did," declared Halliday, quickly, "every single member of that
society had to commit a crime in order to belong to the gang. Vincent, I
truly believe, was not a bad man, as his sole idea was a craze for
inventing aeroplanes. But Queen Beelzebub, wanting him for her purpose, no
doubt inveigled him into committing himself as a criminal, as she
inveigled Mrs. Jarsell and Curberry."

"Poor Lord Curberry," sighed Lillian, "he is more to be pitied than
blamed. I don't think the young man who holds the title now cared that
he died."

"Can you expect him to?" asked Dan, sceptically, "seeing he has got a
title and a lot of money. In a clean way too, for Curberry consented to
the murder of two relatives so as to secure what he wanted. No, Lillian,
it is your kind heart that makes you pity Curberry, but he was not a good
man. No decent fellow would have belonged to that association of demons.
But I think we have discussed the subject threadbare. Let us talk of more
pleasant matters."

"About Mr. Laurance and his marriage?" cried Lillian, gaily.

"Well, yes, although being selfishly in love, I would much rather discuss
our own. Freddy will be able to marry Mildred now since you have given him
enough money to start a newspaper. It is very good of you."

"I don't think so," said Miss Moon, as they began to climb the steps
again, and return to the house. "Mr. Laurance helped you to learn who
killed my dear father and deserved a reward as you did. I gave him
money and--"

"And you give me yourself, so I have been rewarded, very richly.
Well, Freddy will make a very good proprietor and editor of a newspaper,
and Mildred can help him to make it a success. All's well that ends well."

"And you are quite--quite happy, dear?"

"Quite, quite. Only, I fear," Dan sighed, "that some people will call me a
fortune hunter, seeing that I, without a penny, am marrying a rich woman."

Lillian stopped in the path up to the house, and took hold of the lapels
of Dan's coat to shake him.  "How can you talk such nonsense!" she said
reproachfully; "why, after your portrait and an account of all you have
done appearing in the papers, you could have married half a dozen women."

"But none so sweet as you, dear," said Halliday, kissing her, for her lips
were temptingly near his own; "well, I must not despise my good fortune.
But what can I give you in return, Miss Croesus?"

"A promise," said Lillian, earnestly, "that you will not go up any more in
those horrid flying machines. I shall always be afraid of losing you if
you do; you know that quite well."

"Let me take a tiny little flight occasionally," coaxed Dan, gaily.

"Well, yes, on condition that you take me. If there is an accident, we can
be smashed up together. Don't argue," she placed her hand on his mouth,
"that is the only way in which I shall agree to your flying."

"Wilful woman will do what she wants," said Halliday, resignedly, and
tucked Lillian's arm beneath his own; "hallo, there is Sir John and Mrs.
Bolstreath on the terrace. They seem to be very happy together."

"So happy," whispered Lillian in his ear, "that I believe--" she pursed up
her lips and looked unutterable things.

"Well," said Dan, laughing, "it would not be at all a bad thing for Sir
John to make Mrs. Bolstreath Lady Moon. She can nurse him and amuse him
and bury him in due course. What a heap of marriages--you and I; Freddy
and Mildred; Sir John and Mrs. Bolstreath. See, she's waving her hand to
us. Let us go inside, as it's growing a trifle chilly."

"Hark!" said Lillian, raising her finger, and Dan listened to hear the
wild delicious strain of a nightingale singing from a distant thicket.

"It sings of my love for you," he whispered, "and of your love for me.
What other than such a song can express our feelings, darling?"

"This," said Lillian, and kissed him fondly.

"Clever girl!"



THE END




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